- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 23, 2015

HOUSTON (AP) - The Houston Astros don’t have much time to dwell on a tough 6-5 loss to the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday.

They have one day to regroup before a Texas-sized showdown begins Friday with the Rangers that will go a long way in determining playoff fates.

David Freese hit a go-ahead two-run double in a three-run eighth inning to help the Angels take two of three in the series and pull to 1 1/2 games behind Houston for the second AL wild-card spot. The Astros are 2 1/2 games behind AL West-leading Texas, which played later Wednesday in Oakland.

George Springer had three RBIs and Carlos Correa added two for the Astros, who dropped two of three to the Angels heading into the series against Texas.

“We’re right in the thick of this,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “We’re in the thick of the division; we’re in the thick of the wild card with our sights set on a really big series against Texas.

“I downplay everything for five months, five-and-a-half months to get to this series. There’s no downplaying it. I’m not going to sit in front of you and say it’s not an important series.”

The Astros took their first lead of the game in the seventh, and the Angels trailed 4-3 entering the eighth. Mike Trout hit a leadoff double off Will Harris (5-5) before David Murphy drew a walk with one out and Harris was replaced by Pat Neshek.

Freese’s double sailed just beyond left fielder Colby Rasmus’ reach on the warning track and made it 5-4. Carlos Perez’s RBI single made it 6-4 and chased Neshek.

Trevor Gott (3-2) induced the last two outs of the seventh for the win, and Huston Street allowed one run in the ninth before retiring Jed Lowrie for his 40th save.

Hinch said he’d be watching the Rangers game Wednesday night.

“We know we’ve cracked open the door for a couple of other teams to feel a little bit better about their situation,” he said. “We can’t control them. We’ve got to get ourselves right these next nine games to make it interesting.”

The series against Texas is Houston’s last at home, and the team finishes the season with trips to Seattle and Arizona.

“You play 150-something games and it all comes down to the last nine,” Springer said. “So you just have to go out and play and try and have some stuff good go our way and pull something out.”

C.J. Cron drove in two runs in the first for the Angels and Kole Calhoun hit a solo homer in the fifth.

Houston trailed 3-2 entering the seventh before pinch-hitter Matt Duffy legged out a single with one out and was replaced by pinch-runner Jake Marisnick. The Angels intentionally walked Jose Altuve with two outs before a triple by Springer to right field off Gott scored them both.

Houston starter Mike Fiers yielded four hits and three runs in 6 2-3 innings.

Nick Tropeano, who was traded to the Angels from Houston this offseason, allowed four hits and two runs with five strikeouts in 4 1-3 innings.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Astros: OF Carlos Gomez (intercostal strain) missed his 11th straight game. Hinch said he isn’t sure when Gomez will be able to hit again, but that he could be used as a defensive replacement or pinch runner soon.

FAMOUS BEARDS

Bearded Houston Rockets star James Harden, who finished second in MVP voting in 2015, threw out the ceremonial first pitch on Wednesday to Astros ace Dallas Keuchel, owner of the second most famous beard in Houston. Harden met and took pictures with Trout before the pitch and posed for pictures with Keuchel after it. He was asked what he thought about Keuchel’s beard. “That’s my fellow bearded brother,” Harden said.

UP NEXT

Angels: The team is off on Thursday before RHP Garrett Richards (14-11, 3.73) opposes Seattle’s Felix Hernandez (18-9, 3.54) in the first of three games against the Mariners. Richards, who has a career-high 14 wins this season, is 1-2 with a 3.96 ERA in four starts against Seattle this year.

Astros: Houston is also off on Thursday and opens a series with Texas on Friday when Scott Kazmir (7-10, 2.73) opposes Rangers RHP Yovani Gallardo (12-11, 3.41). Kazmir is 1-5 with a 3.70 ERA in his last 10 starts.

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