The ball was in play, closely guarding its future plans while it dribbled meekly down the third-base line. Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs turned away. If he was going to lose a no-hitter on a swinging-bunt single in the fourth inning, he didn’t want to watch.

The ball decided to turn foul at the last second and Skaggs exhaled. One pitch later, he lost the no-hitter on a line-drive single. Two batters later, he lost his shutout.

At least Skaggs was never in danger of losing Tuesday’s game to the Houston Astros. David Freese made sure of that.

Freese went 2 for 5 in his first major-league game since May 2 and the Angels beat the Astros 9-3. The third baseman, playing with a partially healed fracture in the middle finger of his right hand, collected as many RBIs (four) as he had 15 games into the season.

“It’s great to have him,” Skaggs said of Freese. “He brings a lot of energy, a great attitude.”

Mike Trout went 2 for 3 with three RBIs before he was removed with a tight muscle in one of his legs in the fifth inning. By then, the Angels were already leading by seven runs; Angels manager Mike Scioscia said that Trout could have stayed in if the game were close.

The Angels had 12 hits as a team, one by each member of their starting nine. They won for the fourth time in six games on the homestand.

Skaggs (4-1) had a 7.02 ERA in three May starts prior to Tuesday, rarely missing bats along the way. Against the Astros, he effectively used a fastball that touched 94 mph and a curveball that bottomed out at 74. The left-hander struck out six batters and walked one in seven innings. He allowed five hits – all singles, all in the fourth inning or later.

After beating the Astros during the Angels’ first road trip of the season, Skaggs said he brought a similar game plan into Tuesday’s game.

“They were swinging early in the count so I threw more changeups, more curveballs early,” he said.

“He’s got a solid game plan of what he wants to do,” Scioscia said. “He’s got great stuff. I think he understands what he can do, how to pitch to contact, when he should go for the strikeout.”