HOUSTON — The Houston Astros don’t have enough time for their bats to go quiet like they did Thursday night.
Albert Pujols hit a two-run homer in the first inning and Ricky Nolasco pitched seven solid innings, helping the Los Angeles Angels hinder the Astros’ wild-card hopes with a 2-0 victory.
The Angels ended an 11-game skid and pushed Houston 1 1/2 game behind the Tigers for the second AL wild card.
“We’re not perfect,” Houston manager A.J. Hinch said. “I don’t know if anybody is going to run the table, and I think losses anytime of the year hurt. These obviously hurt when you’re glued to what’s going on.”
Pujols homered into the Crawford Boxes in left field, helping Los Angeles move to 2-11 against the Astros this season.
“It’s nice to win,” Los Angeles manager Mike Scioscia said. “We have played some tough games. Those guys have had our number. They’re a tough team. They have played well against us, but we are going to keep playing hard.”
Nolasco (7-14) gave up five singles and struck out five. He did not allow a baserunner past second. Nolasco had a second straight scoreless start after throwing six shutout innings Saturday against Toronto.
“I was spinning the ball pretty good,” Nolasco said. “I thought I was feeling the strike zone for the most part. I was challenging with fastballs when I had to. I was pitching off some good breaking balls to keep them off balanced.”
JC Ramirez pitched the eighth before Andrew Bailey pitched the ninth for his fifth save.
Mike Fiers (11-8) allowed two runs and four hits with a season-high nine strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings.
“We knew in April losing to any team in our division was a big loss,” Fiers said. “Obviously coming down here in September it seems bigger but it’s one game.”
The right-hander retired 13 straight at one point. Fiers had his second straight strong outing after throwing six scoreless innings Saturday in Seattle.
“Just came out of the gate slow and made too many mistakes in the first inning,” Fiers said. “Pujols capitalized on a first-pitch fastball and after that I settled in and got my pitches working and kept them off-balance for the most part.”
Jose Altuve had three hits for Houston, which grounded into three double plays.
“We couldn’t piece an inning together where we had multiple hits in a row or multiple baserunners,” Hinch said. “There was always something in the way either too late after a couple outs or starting something up with two outs and then them making a big pitch at the right time.”
Angels: LHP Tyler Skaggs (left forearm tightness) played catch and will throw some bullpens in the coming week. “He’s symptom free, but we are going to obviously be very conservative where his treatment is now to make sure that this doesn’t re-occur or turn into anything bigger,” Scioscia said. “Right now he feels great.”
Astros: RHP Lance McCullers, who has been out since Aug. 2 with a mild right elbow strain, threw a full bullpen Thursday. McCullers was pain free and will have another bullpen in a few days.
Houston Astros TV play-by-play announcer Bill Brown will retire this month. The 69-year-old Brown’s final scheduled broadcast will be the last regular season home game, Sept. 28 against the Mariners. Brown started with the Astros in 1987 and has called games for them for nearly 30 years.
PUJOLS MOVING UP THE CHARTS
Pujols’ two RBIs broke a tie with Frank Robinson for 20th on the career list. His 116 RBIs this season are his most since driving in 118 in 2010. The home run was Pujols’ 53rd against the Astros.
Angels: RHP Alex Meyer (1-3, 5.63) will make his fifth start of the season and fourth for the Angels on Friday. Meyer earned his first career win in his last start Sunday, tossing five shutout innings against Toronto.
Astros: RHP Doug Fister (12-12, 4.45) will make his 31st start of the season Friday, looking to snap a four-game losing streak. Fister allowed seven runs in less than four innings Sunday at Seattle.