Jul 31, 12:52 AM EDT

Castro's 9th-inning homer gives Astros 3-0 win over Angels

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HOUSTON (AP) -- The Los Angeles Angels came into Houston a game up in the AL West and left two behind.

Jason Castro hit a three-run homer with two outs in the ninth inning to give the Astros a 3-0 victory on Thursday night and a three-game sweep of the Angels.

The Angels certainly aren't happy with this series, but know it's too early to be overly concerned with the standings.

"It's not like we are 10 games out," Albert Pujols said. "Last year we were worse than where we are, and we ended up winning the division by 10 games. There's still a lot of baseball left."

It was 0-0 to start the bottom of the ninth inning. Jed Lowrie drew a walk off Jose Alvarez (2-2) with one out before a two-out single by Marwin Gonzalez. Castro then launched his two-out shot off Fernando Salas into the seats in right field to give Houston the win.

Luke Gregerson (4-1) pitched a scoreless ninth to complete the three-hitter and get the win.

Scott Kazmir allowed three hits and struck out five in 7 2-3 scoreless innings in the first start for the Astros in his hometown and his second since a trade from the Oakland Athletics. He's been dazzling in his first two starts for the Astros, throwing 14 2-3 scoreless innings and allowing just six hits.

Angels starter Matt Shoemaker was equally as good, scattering three hits over seven innings with seven strikeouts.

Los Angeles center fielder Mike Trout was 0 for 3 in his return after missing two games with an injured left wrist.

"(On) a couple of swings I felt it," he said of his wrist. "But it's going to be like that for a couple of days."

The Angels have dropped five of their last six.

"We had a tough week," manager Mike Scioscia said. "We didn't do a lot of the things we've been doing ... we need to regroup and start to build momentum again."

Kole Calhoun gave Los Angeles its first hit since the second inning with a single with one out in the sixth, but Kazmir retired the next five hitters. Johnny Giavotella singled to start the eighth and became the first Angel to reach second when he advanced on a fly out. Shane Victorino drew a walk before Giavotella took third on a wild pitch.

Kazmir escaped the jam and ended his night by striking out Calhoun.

Pat Neshek took over and struck out Trout to end the threat.

"He threw a good pitch," Trout said. "I just missed it."

Shoemaker retired the last 11 batters he faced after a single by Colby Rasmus with one out in the fourth inning.

Erick Aybar singled to lead off the second inning before Kazmir retired the next 10 hitters. The next base runner came when Chris Iannetta walked with one out in the fifth, but the Angels couldn't string any hits together after that.

Luis Valbuena got the first start of his career at first base on Thursday night with Lowrie taking over at third in his return from the disabled list. Valbuena, who hasn't played first base since elementary school, got some advice from Pujols on playing the position. Pujols told him just to relax and "play your game."

Lowrie hasn't played since April 27 because of a torn ligament in his right thumb. He was playing third base for the first time since 2011 because Carlos Correa took over at shortstop while he was injured.


Angels: Hector Santiago faces fellow lefty Clayton Kershaw in the opener of a three-game interleague series with the Dodgers. Santiago is 3-0 with a 1.70 ERA in his last six starts.

Astros: Scott Feldman opposes Rubby De La Rosa when the Astros begin a three-game interleague series with Arizona. Feldman will be making his third start since returning from the DL.

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