Alberto Callaspo's go-ahead sacrifice fly in the eighth proved to be the difference, as the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim edged the Houston Astros, 6-5, to salvage the finale of a three-game set Thursday at Minute Maid Park.
Mark Trumbo tied the game with a two-run double in the eighth, while Josh Hamilton and Brendan Harris each added a solo shot for the Angels, who played the final two-plus innings under protest after the Astros made an illegal pitching change with two outs in the seventh. The protest was dropped since the Angels ended up with the win, which snapped a four-game skid.
Garrett Richards (2-3) recorded the victory with a scoreless seventh before Ernesto Frieri retired the final five hitters in order to secure his fifth save.
Matt Dominguez collected three RBI in the setback, while Brandon Barnes and Chris Carter each knocked in a run for the Astros, who have lost seven of their last nine games, despite taking the first two games of this set.
Hector Ambriz (0-2) absorbed the loss after giving up three runs in the eighth.
Dominguez broke a 3-3 tie with a two-out, two-run single in the sixth before the Angels put two on in the seventh when Howie Kendrick slapped a one-out single and Chris Iannetta worked a two-out walk.
With left-handed hitter J.B. Shuck due up, Houston manager Bo Porter summoned southpaw Wesley Wright from the bullpen. As Wright warmed up on the mound, pinch-hitter Luis Jimenez, a right-handed batter, stepped into the on-deck circle.
Porter then called for the righty Ambriz, despite Wright not throwing a pitch, which is illegal according to rule 3.05 (b) of the MLB rule book which states that a pitcher must face at least one hitter before he can come out of the game.
"If you pinch-hit for that batter, you now have the right to bring in another pitcher," Porter said. "(Angels manager Mike Scioscia) pinch-hit for the batter, which my understanding of the rule means you can now bring in another pitcher to face the pinch-hitter."
Scioscia adamantly argued the call to no avail, as the umpires allowed Ambriz to enter the game. Scioscia then informed the umpires that the Angels would be playing the remainder of the contest under protest.
"My contention was that the pitcher had to face one batter," Scioscia said. "I protested. We're happy we won. I think the rule is pretty clear."
When play resumed, Ambriz flied out pinch-hitter Scott Cousins to escape the jam, but quickly loaded the bases in the eighth, as he served up a leadoff single to Harris before issuing consecutive walks to Mike Trout and Albert Pujols.
Trumbo then slapped a double down the right-field line to plate a pair and tie the game at 5-5. Travis Blackley took over on the mound and grounded out Hamilton before intentionally walking Kendrick to load the bases.
Callaspo then belted a fly ball to left-center field that Barnes made a sliding catch on at the warning track, but Pujols was able to trot home from third for the deciding run.
LA opened the scoring in the second when Hamilton led off with his second homer in as many days to give the Halos a 1-0 lead, but Dominguez answered with a two-out, RBI single in the bottom half to knot the game.
Callaspo's bases-loaded sac fly restored LA's one-run lead in the third before Carter clubbed a run-scoring single in the fourth to bring the Astros even.
Houston took its first lead of the game in the fifth on Barnes' one-out single to right that scored Ronny Cedeno, who doubled to start the frame.
Harris responded in the sixth with a leadoff blast to left-center field to tie the game at 3-3.
LA reliever Scott Downs left the game in the eighth inning with a right foot injury, while shortstop Erick Aybar exited in the fourth with right hamstring tightness ... All four of Hamilton's homers this season have come against the Astros ... Los Angeles dropped a series to Houston for the first time since 2004 ... Houston starter Lucas Harrell allowed two runs -- one earned -- on four hits and six walks over five frames ... LA starter Jason Vargas was tagged for five runs on 10 hits and two walks while striking out seven over 5 2/3 innings.