Astros rally late for win after James' 9-K debut

Houston puts up five runs in eighth inning to maintain AL West lead

September 2nd, 2018

HOUSTON -- broke open a tie game in the bottom of the eighth inning with a two-out, two-run double, sparking the Astros to a 7-3 come-from-behind victory over the Angels at Minute Maid Park on Saturday.

It's the second time in four days that White provided the decisive runs, going back to Wednesday's walk-off home run vs. Oakland. With Saturday's win, Houston has a chance to build on its American League West lead over the second-place A's, pending the outcome of Oakland's game against the Mariners.

"I just try to get a good pitch to hit, and take it the same as any other at-bat," White said of his late heroics. "On 2-0, I was looking for a fastball. That guy [Angels reliever ] has an upper-90s fastball, and I was just trying to catch it out front."

The Astros entered the eighth inning trailing, 3-2, before scoring five runs -- all with two outs.

and led off by reaching base on a single and catcher's interference, respectively.

From there, struck out looking and smoked a lineout to third base. then lined a single to center off Bedrosian to tie the game before White landed the decisive blow off . For the Astros and Correa, who entered the weekend slumping, it was his hit that felt like a dam breaking.

"Carlos with that big single up the middle was so huge," White said of Correa.

"I needed it," Correa said. "It's been a grind lately, for me, but I've been working every single day in the cage to try and get it right. Huge knock."

The Astros later added two insurance runs after an error from outfielder on 's deep fly ball.

"It takes a big hit," said manager AJ Hinch. "In an inning like that where there's so much tension and anxiousness for somebody to do something, when one guy delivers, it's not a shock to me that the swings got really good right after that."

Making his first Major League start in place of Charlie Morton (right shoulder discomfort), right-hander Josh James -- ranked as Houston's No. 6 prospect -- kept the Astros within striking distance, giving up three runs on three hits. In 21 total at-bats over five innings, James dazzled at times with nine strikeouts -- tied for the second most in Astros history by a pitcher making his debut.

James' velocity was electric as advertised, with fastballs up to 101 mph. But the 25-year-old struggled with command early, needing 52 pitches to get through two innings, including a three-run second. walked, singled after getting ahead in the count, and blasted a 3-2 fastball to deep right for a two-out home run, giving the Angels an early 3-0 lead.

"I was a little amped up," said James, who pitched in front of a sold-out crowd of 41,622. "In the second, I kind of let that emotion get the best of me, resulting in a long inning."

However, James said the homer ultimately helped him relax.

"It made me feel like, 'Well, they scored, I don't have to be perfect now,' and it allowed me to settle in and just make pitches."

James settled in after the rocky start to retire six straight over the next two innings, aided by a change in philosophy. While 44 of his initial 52 pitches were fastballs, 14 of the 23 pitches tossed in his two perfect frames were either changeups or sliders.

"I was just listening to [Brian] McCann," James said. "I don't want to shake off a veteran catcher with 15 years in the big leagues. I was just following his gameplan."

Once James departed after the fifth, Brad Peacock, , Joe Smith and combined for four innings of scoreless relief. Smith (5-1) got the win, while Bedrosian (5-4) took the loss.

Angels starter scattered five hits and two runs -- one earned -- over seven innings.

• Justin Upton exits game with mild concussion


McCann drove in Houston's first run with a sacrifice fly to deep right in the third, snapping an 11-inning scoreless streak for the Astros.

Fresh off the disabled list following knee surgery, it was the first Major League at-bat for the veteran catcher since June 30. Gonzalez, who led off the frame with an opposite-field double to left field and advanced to third on an error, scored on McCann's fly ball.

"Those were some of the best swings he's taken this season," Hinch said of McCann's first game back. "He looks healthy, he looks like he can leverage off his knee. He's lighter on his feet and a little more agile. He's got a ton of trust in his lower half now, and I think that's going to pay dividends as he gets more at-bats."


James and White became just the second pair of Astros teammates in franchise history to start in the same game after being drafted by Houston in the 30th round or later. The only other pair to do so was pitcher Darryl Kile and outfielder Eric Anthony, who started 42 games together from 1991-93.


In his first Major League start, James threw a 101.1-mph fastball on the game's third pitch to Angels leadoff man Calhoun. That tied -- who will start for the Angels in Sunday night's series finale at Minute Maid Park -- for the hardest pitch thrown by any Major League starting pitcher in 2018, according to Statcast™.

"Oh man," Correa said of his impressions watching James. "When I saw 101 up there, I was like, 'Man, I didn't know he had that!'"

"That first inning has to be the most adrenaline-filled inning he's ever pitched in his life," added Hinch.


"I just want more guys to have an opportunity to get on base in front of Bregman. For so long, we've talked about how having Altuve behind Bregman is probably giving [Bregman] a ton of pitches to hit. Maybe Bregman can return the favor now by switching them and trying something a little bit different. I'm not going to do anything drastic. I don't really care who hits [where] in the top four in that order. Once Carlos gets going, it's kind of pick your poison, no matter which order I have them in." -- Hinch, on his decision to bat Altuve second and Bregman third Saturday, the opposite of their usual order placement


Right-hander (12-5, 2.85 ERA) takes the mound to wrap up the series with the Angels on Sunday at 7:05 p.m. CT. Though his 4.30 ERA in August was his lowest of any month, Cole's 234 strikeouts are the seventh most in franchise history for a single season and the most by a Houston pitcher since Nolan Ryan recorded 270 in 1987. He'll face Shohei Ohtani (4-1, 3.10), making his first start since June 6 after recovering from a sprained elbow ligament. Ohtani is expected to be limited to around 50 pitches.