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Simmons homers twice as Halos outslug Astros

MLB.com @alysonfooter

HOUSTON -- One day after sitting out to rest a sore forearm, shortstop Andrelton Simmons bounced back in dramatic fashion, homering twice and recording five RBIs in the Angels' 8-7 comeback win over the Astros on Tuesday night at Minute Maid Park.

The Angels, who survived an uneven outing from two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani, have won the first two contests of the three-game series with the Astros and moved a half-game ahead of them into first place in the American League West standings. It also marked the Angels' 11th straight road victory.

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HOUSTON -- One day after sitting out to rest a sore forearm, shortstop Andrelton Simmons bounced back in dramatic fashion, homering twice and recording five RBIs in the Angels' 8-7 comeback win over the Astros on Tuesday night at Minute Maid Park.

The Angels, who survived an uneven outing from two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani, have won the first two contests of the three-game series with the Astros and moved a half-game ahead of them into first place in the American League West standings. It also marked the Angels' 11th straight road victory.

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"It's big, man, big," Simmons said. "The Astros are a good team, no denying it. You go head to head and you put up some runs and they come back. They take the lead, you show some resilience and put up some more runs and the pitchers end up keeping the lead for you and you win the game. It's big."

Video: LAA@HOU: Trout, Simmons, Pujols power Angels to win

Ohtani yielded four runs and five walks over 5 1/3 innings, throwing a season-high 98 pitches.

Video: LAA@HOU: Ohtani lights up the radar gun, fans seven

Simmons, playing for the first time since a hit by pitch knocked him out in the fourth inning of Sunday's game against the Giants, recorded three hits. None was bigger than his go-ahead three-run homer off Houston reliever Joe Smith in the seventh inning to give the Angels an 8-5 lead.

"I knew off the bat it had distance," Simmons said. "I just wasn't sure if it was going to hook foul and ruin my night. I stayed through, so that was good."

The home run occurred just after Albert Pujols logged his 2,993rd career hit -- an RBI single that tied the game at 5.

Video: LAA@HOU: Pujols earns hit 2,993 on game-tying single

Simmons' leadoff shot in the second gave the Angels a 2-0 advantage. He also singled in the third. Mike Trout knocked his Major League-leading 10th homer in the first.

Video: LAA@HOU: Trout slugs his 10th homer of the season

The Angels had lost five of six games entering this series and needed to clean up several areas, both offensively and pitching-wise. Given the strength of the Astros, they knew they were in for a tall task. The significance of winning the first two games of this series was not lost on the players.

"They won the World Series last year," Simmons said. "We beat them two times in a row, and it's just a confidence boost for us. It shows us we're capable of beating them."

Video: LAA@HOU: Simmons on his two-homer game, Angels' win

Added Angels manager Mike Scioscia: "We did a lot of things in these two games that we needed to do. First game -- two-zip -- we pitched really well, held leads, played good defense, got a couple key hits. Tonight, we just pounded the ball and got enough runs to hold a lead.

"It was good to see some of the things come together. It's a long year, and we just need to do some of the things we did these two nights on a consistent basis."

MOMENT THAT MATTERED
In an 8-7 ballgame, third baseman Zack Cozart made a nice stop on a hard-hit ball by George Springer with the bases loaded in the seventh, getting the forceout at second base and ending one of the Astros' biggest threats of the game. Angels relievers held the Astros scoreless the final two innings to seal the win.

Video: LAA@HOU: Cozart makes sliding stop to deny a run

SOUND SMART
According to STATS, Ohtani is the fifth player in MLB history to strike out the reigning MVP Award winner (Jose Altuve) and homer off the reigning Cy Young Award winner (Corey Kluber) in the same season. The others are Clay Carroll (1969), Mel Stottlemyre ('70), Livan Hernandez ('99) and Madison Bumgarner (2015).

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Ohtani hit triple figures on the radar gun six times, including 101 mph twice, to hint that he's getting stronger with each outing of the 2018 season. He also reached 100.7 mph during Josh Reddick's at-bat in the fifth. More >

Video: LAA@HOU: Statcast™ tracks Ohtani's 101mph pitch

HE SAID IT
"It's huge for us. The last couple of years, we struggled against those guys, especially in this ballpark. You're facing some of the best pitchers in the game, and they have pretty good guys over there. To be able to come here and take two, it's always great." -- Pujols

UP NEXT
The Angels wrap up their series in Houston at 11:10 a.m. PT on Wednesday at Minute Maid Park. Pujols will continue his quest for 3,000 hits but will have to do so against Houston right-hander Justin Verlander (3-0), who has one of the lowest ERAs in the American League. The Angels will send right-hander Nick Tropeano (1-1, 3.75), a former Astros Draft pick, to the mound for the series finale.

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.

Los Angeles Angels, Andrelton Simmons

Blister-free Ohtani lights up radar gun vs. Astros

MLB.com @alysonfooter

HOUSTON -- Angels right-hander Shohei Ohtani's start against the Astros on Tuesday was a story of two extremes.

He hit triple figures on the radar gun six times, hinting that he's getting stronger with each outing of the 2018 season. But Ohtani also yielded a season-high five walks, suggesting that control might have been a struggle at times throughout his 5 1/3 innings.

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HOUSTON -- Angels right-hander Shohei Ohtani's start against the Astros on Tuesday was a story of two extremes.

He hit triple figures on the radar gun six times, hinting that he's getting stronger with each outing of the 2018 season. But Ohtani also yielded a season-high five walks, suggesting that control might have been a struggle at times throughout his 5 1/3 innings.

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The Japanese sensation seemed unfazed by the walks when he spoke after the Angels' 8-7 win over the Astros at Minute Maid Park, emphasizing that he felt fine throughout the game -- that the blister that hampered him in his previous outing wasn't an issue -- and commending the Astros' vaunted offense for making him work for every out he recorded.

"The Astros have a really good lineup, and they made me work really hard," Ohtani said through an interpreter. "I need to outwork them, outlast them. If the pitch count goes up, there isn't anything I can do about that. I just need to outlast them."

Video: LAA@HOU: Statcast™ tracks Ohtani's 101mph pitch

In a season-high 98-pitch outing, Ohtani yielded four runs on six hits with five walks and seven strikeouts. He had not issued more than two walks in any of his previous three outings this season.

"You look at the five walks, but I tell you, Shohei wasn't missing by much," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "As the game went on, he got really good command of his split. He threw some terrific pitches. He just had to work hard -- almost 100 pitches at 5 1/3 innings is a lot of work. He had good stuff. He gave us a chance to win."

Ohtani's fourth walk came versus Marwin Gonzalez to lead off the fifth and proved the most costly. Derek Fisher followed it with a first-pitch homer to straightaway center, bringing the Astros to within a run.

"I felt like I made some good pitches on ball fours," Ohtani said. "That was me being aggressive, trying to get them out. Even though I gave up five walks, I don't think that was a big factor at this point. I was just trying to be aggressive and make good pitches."

Video: LAA@HOU: Fisher belts two-run homer off Ohtani

At times, Ohtani looked dominant. He clocked in at 101 twice, and also reached 100.7 mph during Josh Reddick's at-bat in the fifth.

"To hear Shohei describe it, he feels like as the season goes on, he works his way into his stuff," Scioscia said. "That's pretty good. Seeing the couple of games we've seen, he's had great stuff. He's working his way into it, and he's going to be important to us."

Ohtani can still become the first player in Major League history to homer three times and record three wins in the month of April, but he only has one more shot at it. And he'll have to pitch by Monday -- six days after his first career start against the Astros.

Tuesday's outing came on the heels of a loss to the Red Sox last Tuesday. Hampered by a blister, Ohtani yielded three runs in that abbreviated two-inning start. Though Scioscia and a team athletic trainer did check on Ohtani after he walked Yuli Gurriel in the sixth, there were no concerns that the blister, which Scioscia said is now a callus, was an issue.

Video: LAA@HOU: Trainers come out to check on Ohtani

"I felt a lot better than last outing," Ohtani said. "I didn't have any bad effects tonight."

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.

Los Angeles Angels, Shohei Ohtani

Pujols' RBI single puts him 7 shy of 3,000 hits

MLB.com @alysonfooter

HOUSTON -- Albert Pujols inched closer to his 3,000th hit with a single in the seventh inning of Tuesday night's 8-7 win over the Astros at Minute Maid Park. It was career hit No. 2,993 for Pujols, who needs just seven more to reach the prestigious milestone.

Pujols logged the game-tying hit off Houston right-handed reliever Joe Smith, who then yielded a three-run homer to Andrelton Simmons.

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HOUSTON -- Albert Pujols inched closer to his 3,000th hit with a single in the seventh inning of Tuesday night's 8-7 win over the Astros at Minute Maid Park. It was career hit No. 2,993 for Pujols, who needs just seven more to reach the prestigious milestone.

Pujols logged the game-tying hit off Houston right-handed reliever Joe Smith, who then yielded a three-run homer to Andrelton Simmons.

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"I got a situation the first couple of at-bats to drive in some runs," Pujols said. "It was a big spot right there. I tried to get a good pitch to hit and put a good swing, and that's what I did. Joe Smith's pretty tough. He has a really good submarine slider and good sinker. I kept my hands inside and drove the ball back to the middle. I'm glad that I kept the rally going."

Video: LAA@HOU: Trout, Simmons, Pujols power Angels to win

When Pujols reaches the 3,000-hit mark, he will become just the fourth player in Major League history with at least 3,000 hits and 600 homers, joining Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Alex Rodriguez. Pujols is 32nd on the all-time hits list, behind Roberto Clemente, who had exactly 3,000 during his Hall of Fame career.

3,000-hit club

The milestone hit should come sometime soon, and while Pujols does think about it on a daily basis, the first baseman/designated hitter insists it's not at the forefront of his mind when he's preparing for games. But he also knows 3,000 is special, and he'll be grateful for the moment when it does happen.

"I don't want to ignore it," Pujols said. "It's something everybody's aware of, including myself. But my main focus is to try to help the ballclub win. If I stay healthy, one of these days it's going to come. I don't put pressure on myself. I just try to put a good swing, just like I have [for the other other] 2,993.

"Sooner or later, seven more will come. I don't really think about it. It's hard for me to focus on that. My focus is on helping this ballclub to win."

Tweet from @Angels: SEVEN!!!!!!! 💪💪💪💪💪💪💪@PujolsFive didn't like our last tweet. He ties the game up with a RBI single!#RoadTo3000 pic.twitter.com/9oZKCqxLJu

Pujols, who was hitless in four plate appearances on Monday and his first three at-bats on Tuesday, has had more success in Houston than any visiting player in the history of Minute Maid Park. He has 63 lifetime home runs versus the Astros, including the postseason, a record by a large margin. The only players within 20 homers of Pujols are Aaron (46) and Willie McCovey (44).

Given the success Pujols has had in Houston, perhaps it would have been fitting for him to log hit No. 3,000 at Minute Maid Park. Fortunately for the Angels and their fans, the team is headed home after Wednesday's series finale for a six-game homestand, opening up the real possibility that Pujols will reach the milestone in front of his own fans.

"I think it'll be a pretty emotional day, the day it happens," Pujols said. "Pretty exciting. I hope at the end of the day, it happens in a game we win. It'll be more special."

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.

Los Angeles Angels, Albert Pujols

Trout goes oppo for MLB-leading 10th homer

Outfielder is fastest to double digits in Angels history
MLB.com @alysonfooter

HOUSTON -- It didn't take long for Mike Trout to reach the double-digit mark for home runs in 2018. He launched homer No. 10 on the first pitch he saw from Astros right-hander Charlie Morton -- a 96.5-mph four-seam fastball -- in Tuesday night's 8-7 win at Minute Maid Park, giving the Angels a quick 1-0 lead in the first inning.

Trout, whose homer traveled 371 feet, with a launch angle of 35 degrees according to Statcast™, became the fastest to 10 homers in Angels history, reaching the mark in the club's 24th game. The prior record was nine, most recently done by Albert Pujols in 2014. Trout didn't hit his 10th homer of '17 until May 13, in his 33rd game of the season.

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HOUSTON -- It didn't take long for Mike Trout to reach the double-digit mark for home runs in 2018. He launched homer No. 10 on the first pitch he saw from Astros right-hander Charlie Morton -- a 96.5-mph four-seam fastball -- in Tuesday night's 8-7 win at Minute Maid Park, giving the Angels a quick 1-0 lead in the first inning.

Trout, whose homer traveled 371 feet, with a launch angle of 35 degrees according to Statcast™, became the fastest to 10 homers in Angels history, reaching the mark in the club's 24th game. The prior record was nine, most recently done by Albert Pujols in 2014. Trout didn't hit his 10th homer of '17 until May 13, in his 33rd game of the season.

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Trout, who walked in his next two at-bats, was glad to be able to provide a starting point in a win supported by contributions all throughout the lineup.

"It was big," Trout said. "Just got a fastball middle and just barreled it. It was just nice to get a good start for the team."

Video: Trout becomes fastest to 10 homers in Angels history

Trout has homered in four of his past five games and eight of his past 15. He has hit nine of his 10 homers in April.

More importantly, Trout's Major League-leading homer helped the Angels win their second game in a row over the Astros, which moves them into first place in the American League West standings. The Angels had a tough challenge ahead of them when they arrived in Houston, considering they needed to get back on track in several areas, and had to do it against one of the best teams in the Majors.

Their 11th road win in a row has already resulted in a series win over the reigning World Series champs.

"It's huge," Trout said. "I was talking about it with Albert today. These games are huge early in the season. Last year, we let a couple slip away. The plan is to win series. That's all we can do."

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.

Los Angeles Angels, Mike Trout

Ohtani hit 101 mph, fastest by starter this season

Thaiss, Gatto among top prospect performers

A's No. 2 impresses in Double-A debut
MLB.com @GoldenSombrero

Here's MLB Pipeline's roundup of the top prospect performances in the Minor Leagues on Tuesday.

Jesus Luzardo allowed two runs on two hits in the first inning of his Double-A debut but was nearly untouchable the rest of the way, completing five strong innings of three-hit ball as Midland edged Corpus Christi, 3-2.

Here's MLB Pipeline's roundup of the top prospect performances in the Minor Leagues on Tuesday.

Jesus Luzardo allowed two runs on two hits in the first inning of his Double-A debut but was nearly untouchable the rest of the way, completing five strong innings of three-hit ball as Midland edged Corpus Christi, 3-2.

Luzardo, Oakland's No. 2 prospect (No. 60 overall), struck out the side in the second inning before finishing with five strikeouts and one walk. He also induced a handful of ground-ball outs in the performance, throwing 45 of his 78 pitches for strikes.

Luzardo's promotion to the Texas League in the first month of the season was the latest in what has been a series of quick promotions for the 20-year-old left-hander.

Luzardo fans fifth batter of day

A third-round pick by the Nationals in 2016 despite having undergone Tommy John surgery a few months prior, Luzardo received a well-above-slot bonus to forgo his Miami commitment. He made his highly anticipated pro debut nearly a year later and dazzled in a trio of Rookie-level Gulf Coast League starts before joining the A's at the July Trade Deadline in the deal that netted Washington Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson. Luzardo continued to impress following the trade, too, pitching to a 1.82 ERA with 33 strikeouts and a .194 BAA in 29 2/3 innings (nine starts) between the Rookie-level Arizona and the Class A Short Season New York-Penn Leagues.

Luzardo's performance convinced the A's that the precocious sophomore was ready for a greater challenge, as he made just three starts in the hitter-friendly Class A Advanced California League -- posting a 1.23 ERA, a .120 opponents' average and a 25-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 14 2/3 innings -- before a bump up to Double-A.

With his latest debut behind him, Luzardo now boasts a 1.71 ERA and a 0.87 WHIP across his first 63 innings as a professional. He's racked up 78 strikeouts against 11 walks in that span, while limiting opposing hitters to a .193 average and zero home runs.

The rest of the best performances from top prospects Tuesday

No. 8 overall prospect Fernando Tatis Jr. (Padres' No. 1) hit solo home runs in the sixth and ninth innings to account for both runs in Double-A San Antonio's 5-2 loss against Frisco. It marked the second career multi-homer game for the 19-year-old shortstop, who now has gone deep three times in 18 games for the Missions. He's batting an even .200 on the season.

Tatis Jr. slams solo homer

No. 13 overall prospect Bo Bichette (Blue Jays' No. 2) went home-to-third twice for Double-A New Hampshire in his first career two-triple game. He also scored a pair of runs in the contest before finishing 2-for-5. The 20-year-old shortstop is batting .296/.375/.428 on the season, with hits in 13 of 16 games for the Fisher Cats. Jonathan Davis (No. 28) led off the game with a home run, his first of the season, and drove in three in the 9-4 victory over Binghamton.

Bichette smacks second triple

Angels No. 9 prospect Matt Thaiss tallied three extra-base hits but ultimately fell a home run short of the cycle, going 4-for-5 with two doubles and a triple in Double-A Mobile's win over Mississippi. Thaiss matched his career high with the four hits and improved his batting average by 40 points, from .250 to .290, in the process. The 2016 first-rounder has 12 runs, 14 RBIs and seven extra-base hits in 17 games this season.

Thaiss hits game's second double

Tigers No. 10 prospect Christin Stewart blasted his third home run in his first multi-hit game of the year to help lead Triple-A Toledo past Pawtucket. He also doubled and hit a pair of singles to finish 4-for-5 with two RBIs and two runs. The 24-year-old outfielder is slashing .250/.370/.450 through 17 games after hitting .256/.335/.501 with 28 homers last season over 136 Double-A contests.

Stewart slugs home run

No. 79 overall prospect Stephen Gonsalves (Twins' No. 3) tossed five innings of one-run ball en route to his third win in four starts for Double-A Chattanooga. The 23-year-old recorded a season-high nine of his 15 outs via the strikeout while scattering four hits with two walks and throwing 60 of his 91 pitches for strikes. Gonsalves has pitched to a 1.77 ERA, with 25 strikeouts and 10 walks, while limiting batters to seven hits in 20 1/3 innings.

No. 59 overall prospect Alex Faedo's fourth career start was his longest. The Tigers' No. 3 prospect completed 6 2/3 innings, allowing one earned run on four hits with six strikeouts for Class A Advanced Lakeland in a no-decision against Dunedin. Faedo, the No. 18 overall pick in last year's Draft, has worked at least five innings in all four starts, posting a 2.74 ERA with 21 strikeouts and one walk over 23 innings in that span.

Video: Top Prospects: Alex Faedo, RHP, Tigers

Blue Jays No. 19 prospect Kevin Smith went 2-for-5 with a home run, a double and five RBIs, leading Class A Lansing past Dayton, 7-0. The homer, a three-run shot in the third inning, was Smith's second of the season and snapped a seven-game extra-base hit drought. The 2017 fourth-rounder is batting .286 overall with 17 RBIs, 10 runs and five steals through 15 games.

Braves No. 16 prospect Dustin Peterson's first home run of the season was a grand slam that proved the difference in Triple-A Gwinnett's 5-2 win against Rochester. He finished the contest with three hits and four RBIs, both season highs for the 23-year-old outfielder.

Cubs No. 28 prospect Cory Abbott was sharp for Class A South Bend in Game 1 of a doubleheader, tossing seven strong innings during which he allowed two hits -- including a solo home run -- and struck out six. The 22-year-old righty, Chicago's second-round pick in 2017, has given up three hits in his past two starts and owns a 2.12 ERA in 17 innings (three starts) on the season.

Marlins No. 11 prospect Brian Miller enjoyed a six-hit day as Class A Advanced Jupiter split a doubleheader with Palm Beach. The 22-year-old center fielder collected four hits in the opener for the second time in four games, going 4-for-4 with two runs and two stolen bases, and then added two more knocks, as well as two RBIs, in the nightcap. Overall, Miller improved his average from .313 to .360 with the 6-for-8 performance.

Angels No. 29 prospect Joe Gatto, a 22-year-old right-hander, allowed one hit over six innings in his second straight scoreless start for Class A Advanced Inland Empire. Throwing 47 of his 78 pitches for strikes, Gatto posted five strikeouts against two walks and induced 10 ground-ball outs. He's now kept his opponent out of the run column in three of four starts in the California League. Overall, Gatto has pitched to a 2.37 ERA with 25 strikeouts and eight walks in 19 innings.

Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.

Halos win on overturned call after Skaggs duels

MLB.com @alysonfooter

HOUSTON -- Having just shuffled through a tough six-game stretch that produced only one win, the Angels knew they were in for a test against the Astros this week.

They passed the first one with high marks, topping the Astros, 2-0, to take the opener on Monday night at Minute Maid Park before they send Shohei Ohtani to the mound for the second game of the series.

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HOUSTON -- Having just shuffled through a tough six-game stretch that produced only one win, the Angels knew they were in for a test against the Astros this week.

They passed the first one with high marks, topping the Astros, 2-0, to take the opener on Monday night at Minute Maid Park before they send Shohei Ohtani to the mound for the second game of the series.

View Full Game Coverage

In advance of Ohtani's start, they received a stellar outing from lefty Tyler Skaggs, who has been nearly unhittable on the road this season. The left-hander lowered his road ERA even more with seven scoreless frames, walking one batter and striking out three. For the year, he has allowed only one earned run on the road, spanning 18 1/3 innings. That's a 0.49 road ERA.

Video: LAA@HOU: Skaggs K's three over seven scoreless frames

"That's what Tyler can do," manager Mike Scioscia said. "A lot of ground balls, controlled counts, had the good two-seamer pitch, good changeup, his breaking ball was there again. In contrast to some of the games he's struggled, he was commanding counts very well. A lot of weak contact. It was a strong seven innings."

The game ended on a bit of a surprising note, as an Astros ninth-inning rally was cut short when a safe call on Yuli Gurriel's slide into third was overturned for the final out. With runners on first and second, Gurriel tried to advance to third when the ball briefly got away from catcher Martin Maldonado on a pitch in the dirt.

"It's a tough way to end the game, but I can't fault Yuli for trying to be aggressive," Astros manager AJ Hinch said.

The Angels, who will face the top three ERA leaders in the American League during their series in Houston, managed two runs off Gerrit Cole, whose 0.96 ERA entering this start was the second lowest in the AL. Cole took a perfect game into the fifth before the Angels squeezed out a run on Kole Calhoun's base hit to right, and they added one more in the sixth behind Justin Upton's double, which scored Mike Trout from third.

Video: LAA@HOU: Upton belts an RBI double to left-center

Cole was good, but Skaggs was better. With a somewhat taxed bullpen and the losses piling up, Skaggs gave the Angels exactly what they needed. His outing was a massive improvement over his prior start, against the Red Sox, in which he allowed six runs over 4 1/3 innings.

He acknowledged that an abundance of changeups helped temper his pitch count, which has been an issue lately. In two of his prior three outings, he exceeded 100 pitches while not lasting past the fifth inning.

"I got a lot of one-pitch outs," Skaggs said. "I think the changeup and the two-seamer were very apparent.

"It was working. I was throwing it early and often. I think it's a huge pitch going forward."

In the next week, the Angels will play the two teams that met in the AL Championship Series in 2017 -- the Astros, who they're playing in Houston this week, and the Yankees, who they'll host this weekend. Monday's win helped the Angels further distance themselves from a 1-5 homestand that included a sweep by the Red Sox and a series loss to the Giants.

"Every day brings a tough game," Scioscia said. "Whether we're at home or on the road, we need to do things better than we've been doing this last week. And what was really encouraging was being able to come in to a park like this, with a team that obviously has a terrific offense, and to be able to make big pitches and get outs."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Right-hander Justin Anderson, a graduate of St. Pius X High School and an avid Astros fan as a youngster growing up in Houston, made his big league debut in the very ballpark where he spent so much time watching the game as a fan.

With approximately 50 friends, family and former teammates from the University of Texas-San Antonio watching from the stands, Anderson was called upon in the eighth inning, tasked with protecting the Angels' slim two-run lead. He recorded quick outs on Max Stassi and Josh Reddick, both pinch-hitting, before yielding back-to-back hits to George Springer and Jose Altuve. The inning ended when Anderson struck out Houston's No. 3 hitter, Carlos Correa.

Anderson has homecoming to remember

"Working with [Maldonado], he did a really good job working with me back there," Anderson said. "That whole game plan was to listen to him, trust my stuff. I heard the crowd [during Correa's at-bat] and … I told myself, 'Hush them. Get them to be quiet.' And that's what I did."

Video: LAA@HOU: Anderson makes MLB debut in his hometown

SOUND SMART
Skaggs has thrown 15 scoreless innings at Minute Maid Park over three starts dating back to Aug. 26 of last season.

HE SAID IT
"We know that that team over there is a really good team. They're standing in front of us. They're in our way. They are the defending champs, and we know that. We had to send a message. I feel like we did that tonight." -- Keynan Middleton, who fanned two in the ninth en route to his sixth save of the season

Video: LAA@HOU: Maldonado's throw helps Middleton earn save

MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
The Astros' bid for a comeback in the ninth was thwarted abruptly on a tag play at third base that ended the game. Middleton threw an 0-2 pitch in the dirt, forcing Maldonado to scamper to his left to retrieve it. Gurriel attempted to advance to third and was originally called safe by third-base umpire Cory Blaser. A replay showed that Luis Valbuena got his glove down just ahead of Gurriel's hand.

UP NEXT
Ohtani will take the mound for his first career start against the Astros on Tuesday at 5:10 p.m. PT. With another win this month, Ohtani can become the first player in Major League history with three wins and three home runs in April. Charlie Morton starts for Houston.

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.

Los Angeles Angels

Anderson has homecoming to remember

Before family and friends, Houston native makes Major League debut
MLB.com @alysonfooter

HOUSTON -- Right-hander Justin Anderson was so overcome with emotion when he found out he was being called up to the big leagues for the first time that he didn't even think to ask where he was meeting the Angels to make his roster debut.

When his girlfriend told him the Angels were playing in his hometown of Houston, Anderson, in his words, "just lost it."

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HOUSTON -- Right-hander Justin Anderson was so overcome with emotion when he found out he was being called up to the big leagues for the first time that he didn't even think to ask where he was meeting the Angels to make his roster debut.

When his girlfriend told him the Angels were playing in his hometown of Houston, Anderson, in his words, "just lost it."

View Full Game Coverage

"It was like, you've got to be kidding me," Anderson said. "It was meant to be. You couldn't script it."

He also couldn't have scripted how the rest of the night played out. Anderson was called upon in the eighth inning of Monday's 2-0 win, tasked with holding the Angels' two-run lead and preserving an outstanding seven-inning gem by starter Tyler Skaggs.

Anderson retired Max Stassi and Josh Reddick before allowing back-to-back singles to George Springer and Jose Altuve. The inning ended with a strikeout of Carlos Correa.

"Working with [catcher Martin Maldonado], he did a really good job working with me back there," Anderson said. "That whole game plan was to listen to him, trust my stuff. I heard the crowd [during Correa's at-bat], and … I told myself, 'Hush them. Get them to be quiet.' And that's what I did."

The callup of Anderson, a graduate of Houston's St. Pius X High School, was part of a flurry of roster moves the Angels made before the game. They placed right-hander Blake Wood on the 10-day disabled list with a right elbow posterior impingement, recalled righty Eduardo Paredes from Triple-A Salt Lake and added Anderson to the Major League roster.

Given how much the bullpen has pitched of late, Anderson sensed he might see action on Monday. Manager Mike Scioscia acknowledged after the game that a taxed relief corps had something to do with using the rookie in one of the most crucial, high-leverage points of the game.

Scioscia also wasn't surprised when Anderson came through.

"It's one of the reasons why Justin is here," Scioscia said. "We have a lot of confidence in his upside. He's got a power arm, and tonight was a game where you take the water wings off and throw him in the deep end. We really didn't have a lot to go to. We were confident in giving him the ball, as you could see. He's got great stuff."

Anderson estimated that around 50 friends, family members and former teammates from the University of Texas-San Antonio would be attending Monday's opener.

He heard most of those 50 people when he ran in from the 'pen.

"It's all I heard," he said. "It was quiet, but I could hear my friends and family pulling for me."

Wood on the mend

Meanwhile, Scioscia anticipates that Wood will need only the minimum 10 days to recover from his ailment. The 32-year-old made 13 relief appearances, totaling 11 2/3 innings, with a 2.31 ERA.

Scioscia said that Wood was trying to get loose on Sunday when he felt tightness in his triceps.

"We just want to make sure we take care of this," he said. "With a 10-day DL, we can make sure we nurse it back and he can throw a little bit and make sure he's 100 percent ready."

Simmons' return imminent

Shortstop Andrelton Simmons, who left Sunday's game after being hit on the right forearm with a pitch, is expected back in the lineup as early as Tuesday.

Scioscia wanted to give Simmons Monday off, mainly as a precaution.

Video: SF@LAA: Simmons gets hit, exits in the 3rd

"He's good," Scioscia said. "He's definitely due for a day off. He's been grinding it out. Just to make sure this is behind him. ... It was really stiff when he was trying to throw yesterday when it happened. I think he feels a lot better today, but we want to give him the extra day to make sure it's totally behind him."

Encouraging news about Bridwell

General manager Billy Eppler confirmed that right-hander Parker Bridwell, currently pitching for Triple-A Salt Lake City, underwent an MRI in Los Angeles on Monday afternoon.

"The findings of the MRI were unremarkable and presented no evidence of acute trauma to the ligament in his elbow," Eppler said in an email to reporters. "He has been diagnosed with elbow inflammation and will be cleared to throw once his symptoms subside."

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.

Los Angeles Angels

These are the Top 30 international prospects

MLB.com @JesseSanchezMLB

Long before Louis Eljaua rose to special assistant to the president and general manager of the Cubs, he was the young and energetic top international scout for the Marlins. Back then, his boss was Al Avila, now the general manager for the Tigers.

Eljaua vividly recalls a conversation with Avila in 1998 like it happened yesterday. Each time he tells the story of that famous call, he puts his right thumb to his ear and talks into his right pinkie like it's the old hotel phone he used.

Long before Louis Eljaua rose to special assistant to the president and general manager of the Cubs, he was the young and energetic top international scout for the Marlins. Back then, his boss was Al Avila, now the general manager for the Tigers.

Eljaua vividly recalls a conversation with Avila in 1998 like it happened yesterday. Each time he tells the story of that famous call, he puts his right thumb to his ear and talks into his right pinkie like it's the old hotel phone he used.

Top 30 International Prospects list

"I found the guy, Al! I found the guy our owner was looking for. He's 15. Come to Venezuela," Eljaua shrieked through the phone.

Avila, who was in Miami at the time, was not pleased to hear the news. The Marlins had never spent more than $30,000 on an international teen.

Top International Prospects

"Are you crazy, Louis? [Owner] John Henry gives us money and you are going to spend it all on your first trip and the first kid you see? Are you trying to get us all fired? What is wrong with you?"

"I know, I know," Eljaua answered. "Just come see the kid. He's good. You won't be sorry."

That kid was Miguel Cabrera. And less than a year later, the teenager signed with the Marlins for $1.8 million to launch his future Hall of Fame career and forever set the standard for international teenage prospects.

The hunt for the next Cabrera continues, and each year an increasing number of prospects sign when the international signing period begins on July 2; hundreds more will join Major League organizations later this summer.

Led by catcher Diego Cartaya -- who like Cabrera is from Maracay, Venezuela -- the players on MLB Pipeline's 2018 Top 30 International Prospects list represent the greatest young talent from across the globe eligible to sign on July 2.

The ultimate goal is nabbing a baseball unicorn like Cabrera. But signing a horse like Cartaya, a hard-hitting catcher with advanced skills, or other emerging international prospects also offer teams options.

Video: Top International Prospects: Diego Cartaya, C

Remember, the Cubs traded top teen Gleyber Torres of Venezuela to the Yankees as part of a deal for Aroldis Chapman in 2016, and the rest is World Series history. Last year, they traded the Dominican Republic's Eloy Jimenez to the White Sox in a deal for Jose Quintana. Both are the top prospects in their organizations. Back in '16, the Red Sox traded Yoan Moncada in a package to the White Sox for pitcher Chris Sale. The A's acquired Franklin Barreto from the Blue Jays in a deal for third baseman Josh Donaldson in '14.

"If you are not investing time and money and effort to sign international players, you are missing out on making your organization one of the best in the game," Eljaua said. "Why would you ignore a market and just focus on one or two ways to acquire talent when these guys are going to play in your system, hopefully in the big leagues, or be a part of a package that helps you fill a missing piece? And it's not all about the money and paying the most money. It's about scouting and working and finding out about makeup and helping your entire system."

Who is signing whom
More than 950 prospects have signed during the international signing period that started July 2, 2017, and that number could increase during the 2018-19 period, because there are thousands who have registered to become eligible.

In addition to prospects from traditional baseball hot spots like the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Venezuela, Brazil and the Bahamas, there are also prospects from places like Europe, the Caribbean islands and Asia who have also registered.

Video: Top International Prospects: Marco Luciano, OF

As far as the list is concerned, the Dodgers are the favorites to sign Cartaya. Marco Luciano, a power-hitting outfielder from the Dominican Republic, a close second behind Cartaya in the rankings, is linked to the Giants. Outfielder Misael Urbina of Venezuela, who is ranked No. 3, is an advanced hitter expected to have an above-average hit tool and plus speed. He is linked to the Twins. Rounding out the top five is Venezuelan right-handed pitcher Richard Gallardo, linked to the Cubs, and Orelvis Martinez, a power-hitting shortstop from the D.R. sometimes compared to a young Adrian Beltre. The Blue Jays are the favorite to sign Martinez.

Video: Richard Gallardo named top int'l pitching prospect

Breakdown
This year's Top 30 International Prospects list includes 10 players from Venezuela, 16 from the Dominican Republic, three from Cuba and one from Colombia. The positions break down like this: 11 outfielders, eight infielders, seven pitchers and four catchers.

The best athletes at premium positions are the most appealing to international scouts. Three of the top 13 are catchers and three of the top 10 are pitchers. Shortstops and center fielders are also highly coveted in this year's class.

International signing rules, spending
There are specific guidelines for signing prospects like Cartaya: An international player is eligible to sign with a Major League team between July 2 through June 15 of the next year if he is 17 or will turn 17 by the end of the first season of his contract.

Video: Cartaya tops MLB's international prospects list

The rules for signing international prospects are these: Clubs that receive a Competitive Balance Pick in Round B of the Rule 4 Draft receive a pool of $6,025,400, while clubs that receive a Competitive Balance Pick in Round A of the Rule 4 Draft receive $5,504,500. All other clubs receive $4,983,500.

International amateur free agency & bonus pool money explained

Teams are allowed to trade as much of their international pool money as they would like, but can only acquire 75 percent of a team's initial pool amount. Additionally, signing bonuses of $10,000 or less do not count toward a club's bonus pool, and foreign professional players who are at least 25 years of age and have played in a foreign league for at least six seasons are also exempt.

In terms of spending, the Blue Jays, Brewers, D-backs, Mariners, Phillies, Rangers, Red Sox, Rockies, Tigers, Twins and Yankees are expected to be aggressive in the upcoming signing period. The Cubs, Dodgers, Giants and Royals -- teams that will no longer be in the penalty for exceeding their past international bonus pool spending -- are also expected to be very active.

The A's, Astros, Braves, Cardinals, Nationals, Padres, Reds and White Sox are in the maximum penalty, so they cannot sign players for more than $300,000 during the upcoming period.

"We are all looking for the next Miguel Cabrera, but I think it's unfair to compare anybody to him because he was just on another level," Eljaua said. "But the reality is, my old team already paid me for that sign. I'm getting paid to find another one. That's what the job is."

Jesse Sanchez, who has been writing for MLB.com since 2001, is a national reporter based in Phoenix. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB and Facebook.

Remember when Pujols broke Astros' hearts?

Slugger put Cardinals ahead with three-run moonshot in Game 5 of '05 NLCS in Houston
MLB.com @RichardJustice

HOUSTON -- Almost 13 years later, Albert Pujols still hears the boos when he steps into the batter's box at Minute Maid Park.

"It's one of those things that people remember where they were when it happened," Pujols said. "I hear that a lot when I'm here. It's one of those crazy things."

HOUSTON -- Almost 13 years later, Albert Pujols still hears the boos when he steps into the batter's box at Minute Maid Park.

"It's one of those things that people remember where they were when it happened," Pujols said. "I hear that a lot when I'm here. It's one of those crazy things."

In this city, it remains the single most devastating gut punch ever suffered by the Astros. All these years later, the memory of one home run in 2005 remains vivid to so many, and if that isn't a statement about the power of this game to captivate the heart -- or occasionally crush it -- nothing will.

"Our fans were going to storm the field," said Lance Berkman, an Astros outfielder that year. "We were on the precipice. It's still unbelievable."

Here's the background: the Astros were about to win the 2005 National League Championship Series. They were close enough to touch it and taste it and to imagine how sweet it would be. After all the years of disappointment, redemption finally was at hand.

Berkman's three-run home run in the seventh inning of Game 5 of the NLCS had turned a 2-1 deficit into a 4-2 lead. The Astros led the series 3-1 at the time.

Video: 2005 NLCS Gm5: Berkman hits three-run homer in 7th

"I ended up just being a little background music," Berkman said.

As the final six outs were counted down, Minute Maid Park became a wild street party, shaking to its concrete and steel bones with a packed crowd prepared to celebrate the franchise's sweetest moment.

And then with two outs in the top of the ninth inning, with two runners on base, almost out of nowhere, Pujols interrupted the festivities with one of the longest home runs ever hit.

Or at least it seemed that way at the time. Television replays caught Astros pitcher Andy Pettitte mouthing the words "Oh my God" in the home dugout.

The thing is, that ball shot out of the park so ferociously, so violently, that it was hard for some to grasp what they were seeing.

Wait, what?

We're not going to the World Series?

"It was the loudest I'd ever heard [Minute Maid Park]," Astros television man Bill Brown remembered. "And then it got so quiet you could almost hear Pujols' footsteps rounding the bases."

The Cardinals won the game, 5-4, and suddenly, there was a familiar sinking feeling around Houston. They'd led the 2004 NLCS 3-1, but the Cardinals won Games 6 and 7 to send the Astros home. One year later, Pujols had pushed the series back to St. Louis for Game 6 and possibly another Game 7.

"If Albert's booed here, it's out of respect," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "People who've followed baseball in Houston have long memories, and they follow the game and understand it. When people do special things like Albert did, these fans are going to remember."

Pujols is back at Minute Maid Park this week as a member of the Angels and at a different point in his career. He's closing in on his 3,000th career hit and has long since punched his ticket to the Hall of Fame, with 618 home runs and three NL Most Valuable Player Awards.

As for the Astros, plenty has happened since 2005. For one thing, they did rally to win that NLCS. For another, winning the World Series last fall is a nice salve to whatever hard feelings still exist.

But right on cue, when Pujols stepped into the batter's box in the top of the second inning Monday night, the boos came, a few of them anyway -- less than there were in 2006 when he returned to Houston for the first time after his stunning home run.

What other player is remembered that way 13 years later? Pujols' 57 regular-season home runs against the Astros are his most against any opponent. Thirty of those have come at Minute Maid Park, tied with PNC Park for his most in a visiting ballpark.

"In his prime, there's no doubt in my mind he was the greatest hitter in the history of the game," said Berkman, who played against Pujols during 12 seasons with the Astros and was a teammate for two with the Cardinals, including 2011 when St. Louis won the World Series.

"Nobody I've ever seen, that, if you needed a three-run home run to win a game and he didn't hit it, you were shocked," Berkman said. "I'm not exaggerating. That's how his teammates saw him."

In 13 postseason games against the Astros in 2004 and '05, Pujols batted .412 with six home runs and 15 RBIs. He walked five times, and some Astros fans will astutely point to perhaps the most telling statistic of all: zero intentional walks. Yeah, keep pitching to him, fellas, and maybe he'll hit one of those lasers at someone.

"People still talk about it 15 years later," Pujols said. "I think that memory is one of those things that every time I run into Houston fans, they bring it up. 'Man, do you remember that home run? You ruined Brad's career.'"

That's a reference to Astros closer Brad Lidge, who delivered the pitch.

"Ruined his career?" Pujols said. "I remind them he went to Philly and had 41 saves and won a World Series [in 2008]."

When the Cardinals returned to Minute Maid Park the following season, 2006, Pujols heard the boos the moment he stepped from the dugout. As he got into the batter's box, Astros catcher Brad Ausmus said, "I think they still remember that home run. They may not forget that one."

Funny how it works out. That defeat only the delayed the inevitable. Two nights later, Astros ace Roy Oswalt pitched seven dominant innings and the Astros won, 5-1, to clinch the NL pennant.

"That was an angry Roy Oswalt," Pujols said. "He struck me out on three pitches in my first at-bat, and I went back and told the guys, 'We're going to have a long night tonight.' He was such a competitor."

Almost everyone who has played with or against Pujols says the same thing.

"The passion for baseball oozes out of Albert," Scioscia said. "He loves every part of this game and lives for the moment. He wants to win. There are many things we've come to admire about him, but none more than that."

Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.

Los Angeles Angels, Albert Pujols

Angels' late rally falls short in loss to Giants

Trout hits Major League-leading ninth homer as Halos drop 2 of 3
Special to MLB.com

ANAHEIM -- When the ball left Kole Calhoun's bat, heading toward right field with one runner on and the Angels down two runs, an audible gasp permeated Angel Stadium. But the potential heroics were not to be as Calhoun's drive was caught by Giants right fielder Andrew McCutchen. Two batters later Ian Kinsler flied out to end the game, sealing the Angels' 4-2 loss in Sunday's rubber game.

Giants ace Johnny Cueto, who entered the game with the Major League lead in ERA (0.45), WHIP (0.65), and opponents' OPS (.388), did not disappoint.

View Full Game Coverage

ANAHEIM -- When the ball left Kole Calhoun's bat, heading toward right field with one runner on and the Angels down two runs, an audible gasp permeated Angel Stadium. But the potential heroics were not to be as Calhoun's drive was caught by Giants right fielder Andrew McCutchen. Two batters later Ian Kinsler flied out to end the game, sealing the Angels' 4-2 loss in Sunday's rubber game.

Giants ace Johnny Cueto, who entered the game with the Major League lead in ERA (0.45), WHIP (0.65), and opponents' OPS (.388), did not disappoint.

View Full Game Coverage

Despite being relatively erratic on the mound, hitting two batters and walking two, he held a no-hitter through five innings, finishing with seven strikeouts, no earned runs and two hits in six innings.

Mike Trout provided all the Angels' offense, hitting his Major League-leading ninth homer off reliever Cory Gearrin in the eighth. His nine home runs through his first 22 games ties an Angels franchise record with Leon Wagner in 1962, Brian Downing in 1987 and Albert Pujols in 2014. It is the fourth time in his career that he has homered in three straight games.

"I'm having good at-bats and making a good swing at the ball," Trout said. "For me, I'm not trying to hit home runs, I'm just trying to get the barrel on the ball and they're going out of the park."

Video: SF@LAA: Trout belts two-run homer, MLB-leading 9th HR

Kinsler (2-for-5, two singles), Jefry Marte, Rene Rivera and Shohei Ohtani were the only other Halos to notch hits -- all singles. Ohtani has now hit safely in nine of his first 10 starts at designated hitter.

The Angels' best opportunity came in the sixth. Kinsler singled to break up the no-hitter leading off the inning and the Angels loaded the bases for Luis Valbuena with one out. Valbuena, however, grounded into a 3-6-1 double play to end the threat.

The Angels have now been limited to two or fewer runs in five of their past six games.

Starter Jaime Barria -- in just his second career start -- was pulled after walking McCutchen to load the bases with no out in the third inning. Noe Ramirez came in and got Buster Posey to hit into a double play, but the Giants scored their first run of the game. The next batter, Evan Longoria, hit a two-run homer to give the Giants some cushion.

Video: SF@LAA: Barria escapes trouble to end top of the 1st

Though Barria completed just two, his pitch count was at 77, due in large part to a 21-pitch at-bat versus Brandon Belt in the first inning -- the most pitches in a single at-bat in 20 years.

"That took a toll on him," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Naturally, your concern-o-meter goes up a little bit when a guy is in that scope of pitches."

Barria allowed two earned runs and five hits, striking out one. He agreed with the sentiment that Belt's at-bat -- and his first inning overall, in which he threw 49 pitches and got out of a bases-loaded jam -- proved detrimental.

"Obviously [the first inning] was both mentally and physically [taxing]," Barria said. "[Forty-nine] pitches in the first inning -- it was quite a bit."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Andrelton Simmons left the game in the fourth inning with a right forearm contusion. X-rays were negative. Simmons suffered his injury in the bottom half of the second inning, when a 95 mph Cueto fastball caught his right forearm.

Video: SF@LAA: Simmons gets hit, exits in the 3rd

"There's nothing I could've done about it," Simmons said. "It was on me. I tried to slow down [my swing], try to ease the pain that was coming."

HE SAID IT
"I've never seen anything like it. ... I couldn't imagine being up there for 21 pitches. It was an unbelievable at-bat." -- Trout, on Belt's 21-pitch at-bat

SOUND SMART
This was the fourth time this season Angels starting pitchers have lasted two-or-fewer innings. That ties a franchise record set in 1962 and 1979 for most through 22 games to start a season. It is the most times that has happened to one team in the Majors this season.

UP NEXT
The Angels will look to bounce back with Tyler Skaggs on the mound as the Halos start a three-game series against the Astros in Houston on Monday. Skaggs warmed up in the bullpen in the bottom of the ninth inning of Sunday's game, and Scioscia said afterward that, had the Angels tied the game, Skaggs would have entered in the 10th. Skaggs' last start was against the Red Sox on April 18, when he allowed six earned runs over 4.1 innings. In three starts against the Astros last season, Skaggs was 1-0 with a 4.24 ERA. In three career games at Minute Maid Park, he is 1-1 with a 4.00 ERA.

Avery Yang is a reporter for MLB.com.

Los Angeles Angels