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Angels pitcher leaves with neck, back spasms

HOUSTON (AP) -- Wade Miller is finally finding his rhythm.

Miller pitched seven effective innings for his third straight
strong start, Eric Bruntlett hit his first home run of the season
and the Houston Astros beat the Anaheim Angels 3-1 on Sunday.

Miller (7-6) allowed six hits and one unearned run while
striking out four and walking four. He has two wins and a
no-decision, after losing three of his previous four starts.

"I think I'm finally in a little bit of a groove," Miller
said. "The last three games I've been staying consistent with my
fastball and have control of all my pitches. It's a good feeling."

After allowing the first two batters to reach in both the first
and second innings, Miller settled and shut the Angels down.

"I was a little erratic in the beginning," Miller said. "I
guess I just loosened up after that and I definitely felt stronger
the longer I went."

Manager Jimy Williams noticed.

"The last two or three starts, he has pitched extremely well,"
Williams said. "After getting through the first and second, he
really settled in today.

"Originally I was thinking I would take him out after the
sixth, but he only used seven or eight pitches that inning, so I
went one more inning with him."

Brad Lidge pitched a scoreless eighth and Octavio Dotel struck
out Vladimir Guerrero with a runner on second for his 13th save in
16 opportunities.

Angels starter Jarrod Washburn left the game after two innings
with upper neck and back spasms. He is day to day.

Washburn, who is 7-3 with a 5.31 ERA, allowed one hit in his
short stint Sunday. He threw just 24 pitches before having to
leave.

"Before the start (Washburn) was stiff and he didn't loosen
up," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He's stiff now, but
hopefully it will loosen up before his next start. It affected his
delivery and we didn't want to take any chances with his arm."

Washburn's replacement, Matt Hensley (0-2) lasted just 2 2-3
innings before the Astros jumped on him for two runs in the fifth.

Bruntlett hit his first home run of the season and second of his
career with one out in the inning. Jose Vizcaino then doubled and
Morgan Ensberg followed with a single to right scoring Vizcaino for
a 2-1 lead.

Houston got its third run on a perfectly executed squeeze play
in the sixth. With Jeff Bagwell at third, the Angel infield was in
but Brad Ausmus' slow bunt to the left side easily scored Bagwell,
who was running on the pitch.

The Angels got some help in breaking a scoreless tie with two
outs in the fifth. With the bases loaded, Robb Quinlan hit a
grounder to second baseman Jeff Kent, who fielded it cleanly but
then double-clutched in trying to throw to first. His eventual
throw was late and ruled an error, scoring Guerrero.

"We're not getting timely hits," said Garret Anderson, whose
12-game hitting streak ended. "Things like that happen during the
course of the season."

Game notes
Lidge has now pitched 14 1-3 consecutive scoreless innings
over his last 12 outings. ... Bruntlett got his second career start
in center field to give Craig Biggio a day off Sunday. Bruntlett,
who started at shortstop on Thursday, started five games at short,
three at second and one each at third, left and center field last
year. ... Hensley had his first major league plate appearance in
the fourth inning and struck out. ... The Astros had their 13th
sellout of the season with 41,590 in attendance.