Pujols, Nelasco Doom Astros, 2-0
Wild Card Deficit Now At 1-1/2 Games

Thanks for the calls, Brownie!
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The Astros weren't the only Houston professional sports team to get shut out Thursday, only the one least embarrassed by doing so. You know the Astros can't get through an entire season without Albert Pujols spoiling the party at least once and Thursday was that night as his first-inning homer was the difference in a 2-0 whitewash against the Angels of Anaheim that reduced Houston's margin for error to make the playoffs.

Coming into the four-game series, Houston had won 11 of 12 contests against the Halos so there wasn't much concern when Mike Fiers walked Mike Trout in the top of the first and then watched Pujols' jack the 591st home run of his career and 53rd against the Astros (most of any Houston opponent in history) over the Crawfords in dead left.

Only problem was that the Astros couldn't match the lead - or even dent it. Houston outhit the Angels, 8-5, but Ricky Nolasco scattered five of them among seven innings while keeping the shutout intact. J.C. Ramirez and Andrew Bailey wriggled out of jams in the eighth and the ninth to close it out, with Bailey enticing a double play to end the contest.

Other than the one mistake, Fiers actually pitched well. He tossed 6-1/3rd innings and struck out nine while giving up four hits. Jandel Gustave and Michael Feliz took it the rest of the way.

The Rangers and Mariners were off so the best Houston can do now is tie the Rangers in the AL West. Detroit took over the second wild card spot so the Astros are now 1-1/2 games behind them. Baltimore, which lost, is a half-game behind. Seattle is two out and the Yankees are three out.

The Astros hope they can generate some Friday fireworks in the 7:10 Central contest. Doug Fister (12-12), who has been awful in his last two starts, gets the rotation turn for Houston while 6-9 righthander Alex Meyer (1-3) will pitch for Anaheim.

In other news, Astros television play-by-play voice Bill Brown announced he would retire at the end of the homestand (next Wednesday night) after 30 years calling Astros games. A very classy individual, "Brownie" will be missed around Minute Maid. We, at Astros Daily, salute him on his remarkable career and wish he and his family the best in their future plans!

- Bob Hulsey