Astros top Angels, now 1 back in AL West
HOUSTON -- Dallas Keuchel held the Angels to six hits and one run in 7 2/3 innings, and Evan Gattis and Carlos Correa each blasted two-run home runs to lead the Astros to their third consecutive win, 6-3, on Monday night at Minute Maid Park.
"We were reminded the last couple of games we're a good team," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "We've had runs of this where we've had to answer questions after a few bad stretches. We're not a perfect team. We still make mistakes, but we're a pretty good baseball team and getting rewarded for that with a couple of wins at home, playing the way we played is a confidence booster."
Keuchel (18-8) became the first pitcher in modern Major League history to be 14-0 at home, where he has a 1.47 ERA that's the lowest by an AL pitcher since Nolan Ryan's 1.07 for the Angels in 1972. He struck out six batters, tying Mike Cuellar (1967) for a franchise record with 203 strikeouts by a left-handed pitcher.
"I think it's overanalyzed, but there is a sense of comfort when we come back home and that's nice to see," Keuchel said. "A lot of these guys are first-timers to a playoff race, but at the same time you can't really fault the energy level or a lack of effort because everyone wants to win so bad that sometimes some guys, even myself, try to do too much, and that's when we hurt the team."
Gattis clubbed a two-run home run in the second inning off Angels starter Jered Weaver (7-12), and Correa shot an opposite-field homer to right-center with two outs in the third inning to push the lead to 4-0. George Springer's RBI single in the fifth pushed the lead to 5-0.
The win moved the Astros to within a game of the first-place Rangers in the American League West standings and 3 1/2 games ahead of the Angels for the second Wild Card. The Twins, who were off, fell three games behind the Astros for the second Wild Card. The Angels rallied with two outs in the ninth, getting four straight baserunners to bring the tying run to the plate. But Erick Aybar grounded out to end the game, and the offense didn't do enough early on against Keuchel.
"We had some good looks at him early -- I thought we had good looks last week back in Anaheim -- but just couldn't get much going," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He pitched a good game. He's a good pitcher."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Keuchel rebounds: Coming off arguably the worst start of his career last week at Texas, Keuchel returned to his ace-worthy form by beating the Angels. Keuchel has been unbeatable at home this season, but has only one start remaining during the regular season at Minute Maid Park to strengthen his Cy Young case.
"I can't take anything for granted," Keuchel said. "You saw what happened in Arlington. I thought I had a good gameplan going in and I don't take anything for granted. It's a new day any time you go out." More >
Home-run troubles: Weaver gave up two more home runs in 5 2/3 innings, finishing his start with a career-high 1.40 home runs per nine innings this season. His rate has increased every year since 2013, as his fastball velocity has continually eroded. The Angels' longtime ace is now 7-12 with a 4.86 ERA, one year removed from winning an AL-leading 18 games. He's thrown only 11 quality starts, half of last year's total with only two starts left. On Monday, against a free-swinging Astros team he had a 1.71 ERA against this season, Weaver gave up five runs on nine hits and two walks.
"It's more than frustrating," Weaver said of his season. "I haven't been able to keep my team in games for the most part this year. I've sprinkled in some good outings, but I'm just going out there and battling and trying to keep us in the game. I wasn't able to do that tonight. It's been the story of the season so far for myself." More >
Not so fast: Aybar led off the game with a single, but got a little too aggressive on a wild pitch and made a critical out on the bases. Aybar rounded second and tried to pull a fast one on Astros catcher Jason Castro, who retreated slowly to the backstop for Keuchel's wild pitch, but was thrown out easily at third base. Two batters later, Mike Trout lined a single and Albert Pujols followed with a deep flyout, which would've given the Angels their first run. The Angels managed only three more runners in scoring position the rest of the night.
"Erick plays with his heart," Scioscia said. "That's probably not the read you were looking for there, but he plays so hard and he thought he had a shot. It's a little different. The ball's on the third-base side behind the plate. It's gonna be a shorter throw. He felt he had the time on his side, and that's only time you'd go. Obviously, he didn't."
Hinch unsuccessfully challenge a call at the plate in the ninth inning, which would have ended the game had it been overturned. David Murphy slid into home just ahead of Castro's tag, and the call was confirmed.
THE HIGHLIGHT REELS
The Angels' defense turned in a trio of highlight-reel plays in an otherwise underwhelming game. Two of those plays were made by Shane Victorino in the first inning, stretching out to track down Jose Altuve's line drive in the left-center-field gap and then playing Correa's ball off the scoreboard and throwing out the young shortstop at second base by about 15 feet. With two outs in the fifth, right fielder Kole Calhoun charged hard on Jed Lowrie's single and fired a bullet home for his 10th assist this season -- one more than last year's total.
Angels: Hector Santiago (8-9, 3.47 ERA) starts the second of a three-game series from Minute Maid Park on Tuesday at 5:10 p.m. PT. The 27-year-old left-hander gave up five runs in two-thirds of an inning in Minnesota on Thursday, accounting for the shortest start of his career, but has a 1.40 ERA in three starts against the division-rival Astros this season.
Astros: Right-hander Lance McCullers Jr. (5-6, 3.18 ERA) will start for the Astros in Tuesday's 7:10 p.m. CT game against the Angels. McCullers is seeking his first win since July 29 after going 0-3 with a 4.88 ERA in his last six starts.
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