ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) - Win or lose, it was important to Tommy Hanson that he got back on a major league mound after one of the most difficult experiences of his life.
The Los Angeles Angels' right-hander was charged with five runs - four earned - and eight hits over 6 1-3 innings Friday night in a 6-3 loss to the Houston Astros, his first start since May 4. Hanson (2-2) was on the bereavement list for six days in April following the death of his stepbrother, then made two starts before going on the restricted list to continue dealing with his grief.
``It was good to get back out there and pitch again,' Hanson said. ``I was really amped up at the beginning of the game and I was excited to go out and pitch. My focus was there, but I felt like I could have done a better job tonight. Not exactly the performance I would've liked to put out there, but it's good to get that one over with.'
It was Hanson's second loss in two starts this season against the Astros. He was 4-0 with a 1.29 ERA against them in six previous starts with Atlanta.
``We were just trying to attack his fastball. That was our plan early, and we finally got to him,' said Houston rookie Brandon Barnes, who chased Hanson with an RBI single during the Astros' three-run seventh. ``We made good adjustments through the game and just kept going.'
The Angels took a 2-0 lead in the second with Chris Iannetta's RBI single and a run-scoring groundout by newcomer Chris Nelson. But the Astros pulled ahead with three in the fourth, getting a leadoff home run by Jason Castro on Hanson's 0-2 pitch and sacrifice flies from Chris Carter and Matt Dominguez.
Castro's homer to left-center was his first RBI in 18 career at_bats against the Angels to that point. Of the 75 home runs Hanson has given up in the majors, Castro's was only the fourth that came on an 0-2 count. The others were by Ryan Braun, Bobby Abreu and Jordan Pacheco.
``For the first three innings it looked like Tommy's arm was fresh,' Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. ``He was crisp and his velocity was good. He had a little problem in the fourth, and maybe he was getting a little tired in the seventh, but he pitched deep into the game.'
The Astros, coming off consecutive wins at Colorado, have won three in a row for the second time this season. The other time was April 8-10, when they won twice at Seattle and followed up with a 5-0 win against Hanson at Angel Stadium.
``We're just trying to ride this out,' Barnes said. ``We're going out there and playing hard-nosed baseball. We're playing good defense, our pitching's been outstanding and we've been getting big hits when we need them.'
The Astros extended their margin to 6-2 with three runs in the seventh, two of which were unearned because of second baseman Howie Kendrick's throwing error.
Ronny Cedeno started the rally with a one-out triple off the center-field fence that was poorly tracked by Mike Trout. Barnes drove in a run with a single on Hanson's 89th and final pitch.
Jose Altuve greeted Dane De La Rosa with a single, then made a heads-up baserunning play by stopping short on his way to second on Castro's grounder to a charging Kendrick - who threw the ball past first baseman Brendan Harris as Barnes scored.
``That was a tremendous job by Altuve,' Astros manager Bo Porter said. ``Altuve is a heads-up player with a great baseball I.Q.'
The Angels mounted a threat in the fifth when Nelson singled and stole second. But he had to stop at third when Cedeno made a diving stop on Erick Aybar's two-out single in the shortstop hole and held onto the ball. Trout followed with a grounder to Dominguez behind third base and was thrown out on a bang-bang play.
Dallas Keuchel (2-2) allowed two runs and six hits through seven innings, struck out four and walked none in the opener of a four-game series. The 25-year-old left-hander was making his fifth start after beginning the season in the bullpen.
``They've got quality guys up and down their lineup and they can change a lot of scores with one swing, so I was cautious of some hitters and didn't (challenge) them,' Keuchel said. ``Attacking them is one thing, but you also have to make good, quality pitches.'
Paul Clemens came on in the eighth with the Astros leading 6-2 and gave up Aybar's first homer of the year before walking two batters. But then Travis Blackley retired Josh Hamilton on a popup with runners at the corners, and Jose Veras pitched a perfect ninth for his ninth save in 12 chances.
NOTES: The Angels began wearing a commemorative patch on the front of their jerseys in honor of longtime team physician Lewis Yocum, who died last weekend of liver cancer at age 65. ... As a result of Hanson's return and that of staff ace Jered Weaver on Wednesday, Scioscia has decided to go with a six-man rotation at least through the end of this eight-game homestand. ``I think right now is a good time for it,' he said. ``I think it helps the whole group if you can do it periodically. It's like throwing an off day in there.' ... Harris started at 1B in place of Albert Pujols, who is still running poorly because of chronic foot and knee problems. Pujols got the night off.
The Associated Press News Service
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