ANAHEIM — So much for the momentum of an emotional no-hitter and a five-game winning streak.
Félix Peña, whose last time on the Angel Stadium mound was when he was completing a combined no-hitter in a No. 45 jersey, gave up eight runs in the Angels’ 11-2 loss to the Houston Astros on Wednesday night.
The Angels had won all of their games since the All-Star break, mostly because of an offense that had produced at least six runs in each game.
Their pitching had been adequate, with the exception of one remarkable game the previous time that Peña got the ball.
Last Friday, with the Angels wearing Tyler Skaggs’ name and number on their jerseys to honor their fallen teammate in the first home game since his death, Taylor Cole and Peña combined for a no-hitter.
Peña’s turn in the rotation came up again on Wednesday, and this time he got the chance to start for himself. Manager Brad Ausmus said the change was mostly because the bullpen had been tapped from recent heavy workloads.
It was apparent early that it was not Peña’s night.
“I was throwing all of my pitches, but I was leaving a couple of them up and they were doing damage against them,” Peña said through an interpreter.
In the first inning, he gave up a one-out single to José Altuve. Alex Bregman then hit a drive toward the left field fence. Justin Upton jumped awkwardly several feet from the ball, which landed for an RBI double.
Peña then threw a first-pitch fastball belt-high to Michael Brantley, who blasted it over the right field fence for a two-run homer.
In the second inning, Peña allowed two more runs on Altuve’s double down the left field line.
Down 5-0, Peña at least managed to get into the fifth inning before he was pulled by bench coach Josh Paul, who was managing the team while Ausmus served a one-game suspension.
“I couldn’t command my pitches like last time,” he said. “When that happens, it can get kind of bad.”
Luke Bard then entered and gave up back-to-back run-scoring hits, followed by a George Springer three-run homer that bumped the lead to 11-0.
Bard managed to tack on a couple of scoreless innings, which helped preserve the bullpen for Thursday, when the Angels will try to win three of four in the series.
In a sense, the Angels picked a good night to have a bad game on the mound, because the hitters weren’t able to do much with Houston’s Gerrit Cole anyway.
Cole allowed just one run in seven innings. The Angels didn’t even have a runner get past first base until Dustin Garneau’s homer in the fifth. Cole struck out 11, including the final five he faced, and he walked just one.
No pitcher had struck out 10 this season against the Angels, who have the fewest strikeouts in the majors. A pitcher had only struck out as many as nine Angels in only two other games, and one of them was Cole. He struck out nine while pitching seven scoreless innings against the Angels on July 6.
“He’s one of the tougher pitchers we face, and we face him a lot, being in our division,” Paul said. “Ideally you’d like to keep it close as long as you can with him, to give yourself a shot. Tonight didn’t work out.”
Cole lowered his earned-run average to 3.12 in the final year of his contract with the Astros.
A product of Orange Lutheran High and UCLA, Cole is likely to be one of the Angels’ prime targets as a free agent this winter. Cole grew up as an Angels fan and has a home in Orange County.
— MLB (@MLB) July 18, 2019
Of @GerritCole45’s 21 starts this season, he has struck out 10+ in over half of them (11) …
Those eleven 10+ K starts lead all pitchers. pic.twitter.com/VCjYi33eii
— MLB Stats (@MLBStats) July 18, 2019