ANAHEIM -- The task left-hander Brett Oberholtzer has been given the last few weeks is about as challenging as it gets for a pitcher. He's the guy the Astros have plucked from Triple-A twice since the end of May to make a pair of spot starts.
Oberholtzer has pitched much better in his last four outings, which have been spread out over the last six weeks, than he did when he started the season with six losses in his first seven starts before being sent down to Oklahoma City.
He was optioned back down following Thursday's 5-2 loss to the Angels at Angel Stadium, but drew praise from manager Bo Porter for pitching 6 1/3 innings -- he allowed five runs and nine hits -- and keeping the Astros in the game.
"Each and every time we sent him down, we've asked him to come back and pick us up, and he's picked us up," Porter said. "Tonight was no different. He picked us up, giving us extended innings and giving us an opportunity to be in this game."
Oberholtzer (2-7) was called up a week ago to pitch in place of Dallas Keuchel, who had left wrist inflammation. Keuchel will return to the rotation Friday, and Oberholtzer will head to Oklahoma City. Reliever Josh Fields was activated from the disabled list to take Oberholtzer's spot on the roster.
Oberholtzer is 2-1 with a 3.16 ERA in the four starts he's made between his Minor League assignments after beginning the season in the rotation and going 0-6 with a 5.68 ERA in seven games.
"I think I have the right mindset for it," he said of bouncing between the Majors and Minors. "I'm pretty strong mentally, so I'll just go down and continue to work and get better."
Oberholtzer had a 2-1 lead in the fourth inning when he allowed consecutive singles to Howie Kendrick, Erick Aybar and C.J. Cron, who drove in Kendrick to tie the game. David Freese's two-run double to right put the Angels ahead, 4-2, and he scored on a Chris Iannetta sacrifice fly on which George Springer made a leaping catch at the wall in right field.
"I felt pretty good last four or five starts in the big leagues," Oberholtzer said. "I think this is one of my better ones. The results aren't something I wanted, but I made some good pitches. In the fourth, it's a chess match and they guessed right. Iannetta and Freese put some good swings on the balls they drove out to right. They get paid just as well, so hats off to them."
Most of what the Astros mustered offensively came off the bat of Jose Altuve, who went 3-for-5 to push his Major League-leading total to 121. He's only two behind Bob Watson's club record for hits prior to the All-Star break.
The Astros scored twice in the third when Marwin Gonzalez walked and went to third on Altuve's double. Jason Castro scored Gonzalez with an infield hit, and Springer beat out a potential inning-ending double play ball to score Altuve. The Astros were 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position.
"It seemed like we were not able to get the big hit," Porter said. "We had guys on base and had an opportunity and we were not able to get the big hit and they were able to get the big hit -- Freese with the big hit for them. We had some opportunities."
In addition to Springer's fine catch at the wall in the fourth, super utility rookie Enrique Hernandez made a superb diving catch in left field in the third to rob Albert Pujols of a hit. Not only that, he got up and doubled Mike Trout off second base.
"Off the bat, I thought the ball was going to die and land in front of me," Hernandez said. "I thought Trout was going to wait a little bit to see if I was going to catch it or not, and I just kept going after it because I thought if I didn't get to it I thought I had a good chance of throwing him out at the plate. The ball kept carrying a little bit and gave me a chance to make the play."