Angels edge Astros to keep pace in WC race
ANAHEIM -- The Angels got to Astros ace Dallas Keuchel for three early runs, and Jered Weaver and the bullpen made them hold up to take Friday's series opener, 3-2, at Angel Stadium.
The Angels remained three games behind the Rangers -- who also won Friday -- in the American League Wild Card standings, and they now trail Houston by 4 1/2 games in the AL West. The Astros' lead over the Rangers is now 1 1/2 games.
Kole Calhoun drove in two runs with a two-out single off Keuchel in the second inning, giving the Angels a 3-0 lead after Keuchel had extended the inning with a fielding error and a wild pitch with the bases loaded to bring home the game's first run. Keuchel went six innings, allowing the three runs while striking out seven.
"It's a tough place to play and Weaver has our number, so I knew going in I was going to have to be pretty good," Keuchel said. "I was pretty good except for that one error, and that's what cost us. I have to be a little bit better next time."
The Astros got to within a run on Carlos Gomez's sixth-inning two-run homer off Weaver, who had held Houston scoreless for the first five innings. But that was all the veteran right-hander gave up, and Weaver also struck out seven in six innings, tying his season high, while keeping the Astros off-balance. Huston Street closed out the game in the ninth for his 34th save.
"There's a couple of guys on their team that are free swingers, and I know that," Weaver said. "I hate to say you use their aggressiveness against them -- at the same time you need to locate pitches and do things to limit those guys' aggressive swings."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Calhoun again: Calhoun came up with two hits in his first two at-bats against Keuchel despite the lefty-lefty matchup against the AL Cy Young contender. Calhoun is up to 75 RBIs on the season, only one less than Mike Trout. In the Angels' last four games, Calhoun now has a two-run single against Keuchel and home runs against National League Cy Young candidates Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. More >
"All the things that we talk about on the offensive side, sometimes Kole's overlooked, but he's having a terrific season," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Kole's a gamer. He's one of the guys in that clubhouse that keeps things together."
Rare gaffe sinks Keuchel: Keuchel, the reigning American League Gold Glove winner at pitcher, made his first error in more than a year when he couldn't field a Taylor Featherston grounder in the second inning, leading to the Angels scoring three unearned runs. It was only the fourth error of Keuchel's career and first since May 25, 2014. More >
"It was just a bad play by me," Keuchel said. "That's it. One play. Routine play that I missed, and that was the difference. It's frustrating. It doesn't sit very well."
Smith bounces back: Angels setup man Joe Smith had been going through a rocky stretch, posting a 14.21 ERA in his last eight games prior to Friday while allowing 17 hits in 6 1/3 innings. Entering the opener against the Astros in the eighth inning, with the Angels holding a one-run lead, Smith hit the first batter he faced, but induced a double play from Jose Altuve and struck out Carlos Correa looking to finish a scoreless frame.
"Honestly, I think everybody expects that out of Joe -- what you saw tonight," said Street. "He's one of the best relievers of the last five years. He's going to continue to be. That's why Sosh sticks with him. … He's one of the truest professionals I've ever been around in the bullpen."
Altuve's historic hit: Altuve became the fastest Astros player to reach 800 hits with a first-inning double off Weaver. The hit came in his 647th career game, besting the 707 games it took Cesar Cedeno to reach 800. Jeff Bagwell needed 708 games to reach 800 hits. More >
"There's not a man in that clubhouse that doesn't respect how hard Kole plays the game. He's earning that leadership through example. Most guys have to grow into that. Certainly Kole did. Mike is. Albert did when he first came up in St. Louis." -- Scioscia, on Calhoun's leadership role on the Angels alongside Trout and Albert Pujols
"He pitches to the corners, he slows the game down. He's got as slow of a breaking ball as anybody in the league. He's a pitcher and he was tough on us." -- Astros manager A.J. Hinch on Weaver
Hinch unsuccessfully challenged a play at the plate in the second inning Friday. Featherston slid home ahead of a swipe tag by Hank Conger and was called safe. The call was on the field stood.
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Weaver earned his 138th career win on Friday, and they've all come with the Angels. That mark is tied with Nolan Ryan for second-most in franchise history, trailing only Chuck Finley, who had 165 wins for the Halos. More >
"Jered's been there, he's been our lead dog for a long time, and some of the names that he's catching puts into perspective how good of a pitcher he's been for us," Scioscia said.
When Erick Aybar crossed home plate in Friday's second inning to put the Angels on the board, it marked the 18th time this season that the Angels had scored a run on a wild pitch, a mark that easily leads the Majors. The Nationals, Yankees and Rangers are tied for second, with nine.
Astros: Right-hander Lance McCullers will make his 18th start of the season when the Astros face the Angels at 8:05 p.m. CT Saturday at Angel Stadium. McCullers (5-5, 3.07 ERA) is looking for his first win since July 29. He's 0-2 with a 5.31 ERA in his last four starts.
Angels: Left-hander Hector Santiago takes the mound for the Angels in the second game of the series at 6:05 p.m. PT. In his last start against the Rangers, Santiago walked six batters but only allowed one hit, keeping Texas scoreless over six innings while leading the Angels to a big win against a team they need to catch in the Wild Card race.
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