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HOUSTON (AP) — Josh Hamilton is starting to break out of his season-long slump, and it has helped the Los Angeles Angels string together some wins.
Hamilton doubled home the go-ahead run in the eighth inning and scored on shortstop Jake Elmore’s overthrow, helping the Angels beat the Houston Astros 3-1 Sunday and extend their winning streak to six.
C.J. Wilson won his fourth straight start and Mark Trumbo hit his 18th homer for the Angels, who swept three-game series at Detroit and Houston for their first undefeated trip of at least six games since 2002.
“There’s no doubt that I think there’s a comfort level that you can see starting to form,” Los Angeles manager Mike Scioscia said. “We talked a while about it, but Josh is important to us and it’s good to see him swinging the bat better this trip.”
Hamilton, who left Texas to sign a $125 million, five-year contract during the offseason, is hitting just .223. But he’s been better lately, with 11 RBIs in his last 16 games after driving in just 10 in his previous 50 games. He is batting .273 with nine hits and five RBIs in his last 10 games.
Hamilton had 43 homers and 128 RBIs last season. Eighty-two games into this season he has just 10 homers and 29 RBIs.
“Getting there,” he said. “I feel a lot better, but even if I had been hitting for a month, I still wouldn’t say I was there.”
He is starting to have a bit more fun though, something that was clear by the huge grin he had when he trotted home after the error on his double.
“It’s fun when you remember the game that you played your whole life and Little League,” he said. “Nothing’s changed inside the lines, it’s still the same game … so don’t get caught up in struggles or anything like that, and just enjoy having the opportunity to be here and play.”
Scioscia is encouraged by the recent surge of the Angels, who are in third place and nine games back in the AL-West.
“I think there’s a feeling of confidence in the clubhouse and on the field, which is more important,” he said. “Although I don’t think we’re firing totally on all cylinders, we’re doing enough good things to get it done.”
Wilson (8-5) allowed an unearned run, three hits and three walks, and he struck out 10 for his third double-digit strikeout game this season. Ernesto Frieri pitched a one-hit ninth for his 21st save in 23 chances.
Houston starter Lucas Harrell yielded a run and six hits with seven strikeouts in seven innings. He took a comebacker to the lower left leg on a single by Howie Kendrick starting the sixth and fell to the ground for a second before quickly popping back up. Harrell as checked by Houston’s trainers before throwing a couple of warmup pitches and remaining in the game.
“His stuff was probably as good as it had been all year,” Houston manager Bo Porter said. “He battled, and even after taking the shot off the leg, he continued to pitch, which was good to see.”
Trumbo’s fourth-inning homer put the Angels ahead, but Houston tied the score in the sixth. Brandon Barnes singled leading off, stole second and took third on Jake Elmore’s bunt single. Jose Altuve hit a line drive to third baseman Alberto Callaspo, who tried to double up Elmore at first but bounced his throw for an error as Barnes scored.
Howie Kendrick singled off Jose Cisnero (2-1) leading off the eighth and Albert Pujols struck out. Hamilton then doubled off the wall in left-center. Barnes, the center fielder, threw to Elmore at shortstop, and Elmore badly overthrow the plate for his third error in two games.
Houston put runners at first and second with two outs in the eighth, but Kevin Jepsen struck out Carlos Corporan, who fanned four times Sunday and has 15 strikeouts in his last 20 at-bats.
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