HOUSTON (AP) - Detecting a drop in velocity with his pitches early on, Astros rookie right-hander Paul Clemens knew he had to get creative in order to be effective Sunday afternoon.
He did just that, giving the Astros seven strong innings in a 2-1 loss to the Los Angeles Angels.
Houston, a big league-worst 51-98, is on the verge of becoming the first major league team to reach triple figures in losses in three consecutive seasons since Kansas City from 2004-06. The Astros were 56-106 in 2011 and dropped to 55-107 last year, their final season in the National League.
If Clemens' progress is any indication, Houston has a reason to hope for improvement next season.
``It was impressive,' Astros manager Bo Porter said of Clemens' outing. ``I felt like he did a tremendous job of using all of his pitches.'
The Astros' offense was another matter. The Astros left seven men on base and were 0 for 4 with runners in scoring position.
Marc Krauss homered in the second for the Astros, his fourth of the season. Clemens, making his third career start, allowed both of the Angels' runs on six hits.
Clemens (4-5) was scratched from his previous scheduled start after developing a blister.
``My velocity being down, it actually allowed me to use my breaking stuff a little bit more, which has been what I think has gotten me in trouble after my first couple of months here,' Clemens said. ``When I got called up I wanted to show them I was here to compete and I went after guys aggressively with my fastball and it's starting to burn me.
``It feels like I'm giving up a home run every inning. I really want to focus on my execution and my pitch selection and not be so aggressive anymore and not challenge too many guys.'
Result aside, Porter said the outing should be something for Clemens to build on.
``Especially if you look at his last outing and then him having to get scratched from his last start because of the blister and having to throw a couple of more bullpen sessions,' Porter said. ``For him to come out and pitch the way he pitched today, it is definitely a confidence booster.'
Jerome Williams won a third straight start for the first time since April 2004, and Ernesto Frieri pitched two innings in relief for his 34th save in 38 chances for the Angels, who have won five of six overall and 14 of their last 17 road games.
Josh Hamilton had an RBI triple in the first off Clemens, a drive off the glove of center fielder Brandon Barnes as he went up Tal's Hill. Mike Trout had reached with his AL-leading 100th walk.
``There aren't many ballparks that would hold that ball,' Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. ``I think that in any other ballpark we're playing that's a two-run home run.'
Andrew Romine hit a sacrifice fly in the fifth after singles by Erick Aybar and Hank Conger.
Frieri entered with two on in the eighth and got six outs, including four via strikeout.
After Jose Altuve's eighth-inning sacrifice, Frieri struck out Trevor Crowe and Brett Wallace. Matt Dominguez singled in a 12-pitch at-bat leading off the ninth, and Frieri retired three in a row.
The missed chances proved costly for the Astros, Porter said.
``First and third one out. We had a run-scoring opportunity and we don't get it done there,' Porter said. ``You have second and third, one out and unable to get it done there again. We had our opportunities, and we just weren't able to capitalize.'
NOTES: RHP Dane De La Rosa made his 70th appearance, setting an Angels record for rookie appearances. He let two on in the eighth before exiting. ... Trout is the first AL player in history with 70 extra-base hits, 30 stolen bases and 100 walks in a season. ... Astros rookie Max Stassi (concussion) said he remains hopeful that he'll be able to catch before the end of the season. Stassi, who has been sidelined since Aug. 21 after he took a pitch to the face in a 5-4 loss at Texas, caught another bullpen session Sunday.
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