- Associated Press - Thursday, June 5, 2014

HOUSTON (AP) - Jarred Cosart was good on Wednesday night against the Los Angeles Angels.

Unfortunately for Cosart and the Houston Astros, Garrett Richards was better.

Richards stuck out nine to match his career best over eight excellent innings and helped the Angels snap a season-worst four-game skid with a 4-0 win over Astros.

Cosart (4-5) allowed eight hits and three runs and tied a career-high with eight strikeouts in 6 2-3 innings.

“If he continues to throw the ball like that, we are going to win a lot of games on the nights that he pitches,” Houston manager Bo Porter said. “He threw sharp breaking stuff, an explosive fastball and he attacked both sides of the plate. And more impressively today, he finally started to use his changeup, and he used it against both righties and lefties.”

Richards (5-2) bounced back from a terrible outing in his last start when he allowed five runs while getting only two outs. It was the shortest non-injury-related start of his career.

Joe Smith struck out one in a hitless ninth to complete the four-hitter for the Angels.

Erick Aybar had two doubles and an RBI and David Freese doubled and drove in a run for the Angels.

Dexter Fowler had two hits for the Astros, but no one else could get anything going against Richards. Heralded prospect Jon Singleton went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts in his second major league game after homering in his debut on Tuesday night.

Houston’s Jose Altuve raved about Cosart and Richards.

“(Cosart) did a really good job tonight, threw some good pitches,” Altuve said. “He probably deserved to win, but their pitcher just did a really good job against us.”

Fowler’s ground-rule double led things off for the Astros. But Richards retired the next eight batters, including striking out the side in the second inning on nine pitches.

Fowler singled with two outs in the third but Jose Altuve grounded into a force out to end the inning.

Richard located his pitches well all night, but his control was impeccable early in the game when 32 of his first 35 pitches were strikes.

Freese doubled with one out in the fifth and C.J. Cron put the Angels on top 1-0 with his RBI single with two outs.

Aybar hit a one-out double in the sixth before Albert Pujols drew a walk. Howie Kendrick and Freese hit back to back singles with two outs to stretch the lead to 3-0.

“I had all three pitches working, I was efficient, and the pitch count was pretty good until the sixth inning,” Cosart said. “I had some stuff not bounce for me the right way, and then later in the game, I did not execute a couple of 0-2 pitches. That is kind of the story of how they scored.”

The Angels didn’t get a hit until Albert Pujols singled with two outs in the fourth inning, but Cosart struck out Josh Hamilton for the third out.

Hamilton played center field on Wednesday night in his second game back from the disabled list with star Mike Trout out again with back problems.

Collin Cowgill entered the game as a pinch-runner eighth and took over in center field and Hamilton moved to left field. He preserved the shutout by sprinting to make a catch on the track just before Tal’s Hill in center field on a fly ball hit by George Springer for the last out in the eighth inning.

Trout had an MRI on Wednesday and said it didn’t reveal any damage. He has some inflammation in the middle of his back on the left side and hopes to return to the lineup on Thursday.

Trout missed two games with stiffness in his upper back before starting Tuesday night in Houston. He left that game in the second inning because of his back problem.

He said that he feels a lot better on Wednesday than he did when he left the game on Tuesday night.

“If I don’t feel it at all, I’m going to play,” he said. “If I feel it a little bit, I should just be smart about it.”

NOTES: The series wraps up on Thursday when Los Angeles left-hander Tyler Skaggs opposes Brad Peacock. … Houston SS Jonathan Villar was out of the lineup on Wednesday after being hit on the right elbow by a pitch the night before. X-rays were negative and he is day to day.

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