ANAHEIM, Calif. - One by one, Houston Astros manager Bo Porter summoned relievers to the mound to try to hold the lead for Scott Feldman.
Through 55 minutes, 14 batters and 74 pitches, the Los Angeles Angels surged to their most productive inning of the season.
Albert Pujols hit a go-ahead, two-run homer, and C.J. Cron and pinch-hitter David Freese also went deep during an eight-run rally that carried the Angels to an 11-5 victory over the Astros on Saturday night that spoiled Porter's 42nd birthday.
"It was a tough inning," losing pitcher Anthony Bass said. "I looked back at video, and balls were just coming back over the middle of the plate for them. They were just hitting everything. If I had made some pitches on the corners, I think it's definitely a different ballgame."
Bass (1-1) inherited a 5-2 lead from Feldman, and Cron greeted him with a leadoff single. Freese batted for John McDonald and hit his first homer in 124 career at-bats at Angel Stadium and first in the majors as a pinch-hitter.
"It doesn't matter who we're facing," Pujols said. "We hit some balls hard against Feldman, but he made some good pitches when he needed them to get out of some innings. But our goal is not to concentrate on who's on the mound. It's to go out there and have quality at-bats against anybody."
Kole Calhoun followed with a single for his third hit of the game. Bass retired Mike Trout before Pujols drove the next pitch to left-centre for his 19th homer.
It was the 511th shot of his career, tying Mel Ott for 23rd place on baseball's list and putting him one away from matching Ernie Banks and Eddie Mathews. Pujols added his 542nd double in the ninth to overtake Rogers Hornsby for 30th place.
"It was a big inning at the right time," manager Mike Scioscia said after the Angels' ninth straight home win. "David Freese got us close and Albert got a huge hit with two outs to give us a lead. Once that inning got rolling, our guys didn't want it to end.
"They just kept passing that baton and doing whatever they had to do."
Tony Sipp, who surrendered Trout's walkoff homer in the ninth inning of the Astros' 7-6 loss on Friday, gave up a walk to Josh Hamilton and an RBI double to Erick Aybar. After an intentional walk to Howie Kendrick, Josh Zeid came on and yielded Cron's three-run homer.
Trout struck out against Zeid with the bases loaded to end the rally.
"We've got to be better," Zeid said. "I know I personally have to be a lot better. They're a great hitting team, and we weren't making the right pitches.
"I know I have to be more aggressive."
Michael Roth (1-0) pitched two perfect innings of relief for the victory after rejoining the Angels from the minors earlier Saturday. Los Angeles is a season-best 14 games over .500 and remains 3 1-2 games behind AL West-leading Oakland.
Angels lefty Hector Santiago gave up five runs, six hits and three walks in five innings of his 11th start of a season in which he has been demoted to the bullpen and to the minors. He is 0-7, and his ERA jumped from 4.08 to 4.50.
Feldman allowed two runs on six hits and struck out five without walking a batter.
The Astros, who came in with an AL-worst .235 batting average, scored five runs in the third after the Angels took a 1-0 lead in the first on Pujols' RBI single. Jason Castro tied it with an RBI double before Santiago hit George Springer on the left leg and gave up a single to Matt Dominguez. That set the stage for Chris Carter, who hit his 15th homer of the season and second career grand slam.
NOTES: Feldman has an 3.19 ERA in six starts since giving up nine runs over 5 1-3 innings in a 9-4 home loss to Baltimore on June 1. ... Feldman is 6 2-3 innings shy of 1,000 in his career. He is 5-6 with a 5.14 ERA in 15 career starts against the Angels, the first 11 coming with the Texas Rangers. ... Freese's homer was the first by an Angels pinch-hitter since Chris Iannetta's solo shot on Sept. 4, 2013. ... The Angels became the fourth team to reach 50 wins.
© Coast Reporter