Astros crush five homers to topple Angels
Castro knocks two-run shot in return to lineup, backing Feldman's start
HOUSTON -- They can make any manager look smarter, can help any hitting coach sleep better at night and can provide any starting pitcher with some added confidence, as well as give him some room to make mistakes.
The Astros typically don't have the kind of lineup that's going to put fear into the opposition, but they broke out the big bats Sunday afternoon at Minute Maid Park and slugged a season-high five home runs to snap a three-game losing streak with a 7-4 win over the Angels.
Five of the Astros' seven hits were home runs -- two-run shots by Jason Castro in the first inning and Jonathan Villar in the seventh, and solo blasts by Matt Dominguez in the second, Jesus Guzman in the fourth and Alex Presley in the fifth. It was their first five-homer game since Aug. 26, 2013 against the White Sox in Chicago.
"We had some good swings on some pitches and the ball went out of the park," Presley said. "We had seven hits and five of them were homers, and that's a pretty good ratio you don't see very often, so we definitely took advantage of it today."
The Astros needed every one of them, too. The Angels rallied for three runs in the ninth against Anthony Bass and had the tying run at the plate when Chad Qualls struck out Kole Calhoun to end the game and keep the dangerous Mike Trout on deck.
"You look at that point in the game and bringing Chad Qualls into the game, the one thing you know is the ball's going to stay in the ballpark," Astros manager Bo Porter said. "In that situation, you like your chances. You have multiple people on base and you have a chance to get the ground ball and the game be over. He came in and did a tremendous job and ended up winning the game."
Astros starter Scott Feldman, working for the first time since holding the Yankees scoreless for 6 1/3 innings on Opening Day, was the beneficiary of the offensive fireworks. He improved to 2-0 by holding the Angels to one run and three hits in seven innings.
"I didn't have the greatest command of my pitches, but the curveball was there for me for the most part for most of the game, so that helped a lot," he said. "As the game went on, I didn't have best command of my other stuff, so I needed to get strike one somehow. If I threw a knuckleball, I probably would have thrown that up there, too."
Feldman was no stranger to the Angels, having faced them 21 times (12 starts) during his career, the bulk of which was spent with the Rangers. He held the second through fifth hitters in the Angels' lineup to one hit in 14 at-bats.
"He didn't do anything that we didn't expect," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He cut the fastball in to lefties and away to righties, back-doored it, threw some four-seamers arm-side, used his breaking ball and threw for strikes when he needed to. He just kind of mixes and matches his pitches and he pitched a good game for those guys."
Castro, who homered in his first at-bat after missing the previous two games with a bruised foot, said the shutdown innings early by Feldman were huge.
"Any time we can put some runs up and we come out and shut them down the next half inning, it keeps the momentum on our side and it helps moving forward," he said. "We were able to keep putting the pressure on their offense, and he just kept doing his job, coming out and putting up zeroes."
Four of the Astros' homers came against Angels starter Jered Weaver, who gave up five runs and five hits while striking out six batters in 5 2/3 innings. The four homers matched a career high he had allowed twice.
"He tries to keep you off-balance with a bunch of different stuff and changes speeds," Presley said. "You really have to be disciplined against him because he'll take advantage. You just try to get a pitch you can handle and be aggressive on it, and we did a good job of that today."
Bass pitched a 1-2-3 eighth before running into trouble in the ninth with a 7-1 lead.
The inning began with a single by Albert Pujols and a double by Josh Hamilton, and Villar may have saved the day when he went into the air and snagged a line drive off the bat of David Freese at shortstop. That's because the next two hitters singled, including a two-run hit by Raul Ibanez.
Qualls entered the game with one out, a 7-3 lead and runners at first and second base.
"I had eight, nine, one [in the lineup] and I just needed two outs," he said. "Knowing that [Trout] was up second, or fourth when I was going to be in the game, I knew if I could get two of those three guys out he wouldn't come up.
"Once I gave up a jam-shot hit [RBI by Erick Aybar], I said, 'OK, we really need to get this guy so Trout doesn't come up to the plate.' It was good to get ahead [of Calhoun], that way I could throw a slider in the dirt and try to have him swing at it, and fortunately that's what we did."