- Associated Press - Saturday, September 13, 2014

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) - With eight wins in their previous 10 games, the Houston Astros headed into Orange County feeling good about their progress late in another lost season.

The buzz saw that is the Los Angeles Angels’ offense reminded them just how far they’ve still got to go.

David Freese hit a two-run homer and Mike Trout had an RBI triple during Los Angeles’ seven-run fifth inning, and the Angels beat Houston 11-3 Friday night for their ninth consecutive victory.

Brett Oberholtzer (5-11) couldn’t get through the fifth for the Astros, who have played well under interim manager Tom Lawless. Houston made three errors in the series opener, and the Angels obliterated Houston’s early 3-0 lead with another eye-popping night from the majors’ most productive offense.

“I thought it was going to be a special night for me,” Oberholtzer said. “I was throwing the ball well, and I thought I had my better stuff early on. I felt I made some good pitches all night. You’ve got to keep battling and maintain focus throughout the game.”

The Angels had seven hits in the fifth, scoring their first run of the inning when Jake Marisnick dropped Collin Cowgill’s fly ball in right for an error. Kole Calhoun, Trout and Albert Pujols all drove in runs before Freese’s eighth homer, his second in 42 games.

“I just missed it,” Marisnick said. “I just dropped it. The ball has got to be caught. It was a big point in the game and it gave them some momentum.”

Calhoun had a tiebreaking, two-run single in the fifth for the major league-leading Angels (92-55), who began their final homestand by reducing their magic number to five for their first AL West title since 2009. They lead spiraling Oakland, which lost 4-2 in Seattle, by 11 games with 15 to play.

“They’re a good team, and they’re on a roll,” Lawless said. “There’s no doubt about that. So if we don’t play a clean game … we made a miscue here, we made a miscue there, and they just took advantage of it. That’s what good teams do.”

The Angels scored 70 runs during their eight-game road streak, and they increased that crazy offensive pace in their return to the Big A, trouncing the only team that has beaten them since Aug. 25. The Astros took two straight from Los Angeles early last week.

“It’s certainly a good time for it,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “They cracked the door open for us a little bit, and then (we got) just some key hits all the way around.”

C.J. Wilson (12-9) struggled just to reach the fifth, but the Angels’ offense secured his second straight victory. The inconsistent left-hander gave up seven hits and struck out six.

Marisnick, from nearby Riverside, got a 20-foot RBI single in the first inning when Wilson and catcher Chris Iannetta couldn’t field his bases-loaded topper cleanly.

CHALLENGE ACCEPTED

Robbie Grossman reached first in the fourth inning when Lawless successfully challenged a call for the first time as the Astros’ manager. Replays showed C.J. Cron hadn’t applied a tag after catching an errant throw from Erick Aybar. Grossman came around to score on Dexter Fowler’s double.

BEARD AND WEIRD

Before the game, Angels President Tim Carpino donned a fake black beard as he presented the AL pitcher of the month award to right-hander Matt Shoemaker. The executive’s phony facial hair was even bigger than Shoemaker’s tonsorial trademark. Several Angels reserves also wore fake beards for a group photo with Shoemaker.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Angels: Cleanup hitter Josh Hamilton missed his eighth straight game with an injured right shoulder, and the offense again didn’t miss him. The 2010 AL MVP’s return is still uncertain. … LHP Joe Thatcher was activated from the disabled list after a six-week absence with a sprained ankle.

UP NEXT

Astros RHP Scott Feldman (8-10, 3.99 ERA) starts the middle game of the series against RHP Jered Weaver (16-8, 3.58), who looks for his AL-leading 17th win.

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