HOUSTON -- Barring a dramatic turn of events, it's likely the Angels will not be in playoff contention when they visit Houston one final time toward the end of the season. But if Jaime Barria's turn in the rotation comes up at any point that weekend -- Sept. 20-22 -- the Angels may like their chances to end up with a win that day.
Including his performance on Sunday during the Angels' 11-2 loss to Houston, Barria ("El Pana") has allowed three runs over 16 1/3 innings in three career starts at Minute Maid Park. That includes two starts in 2018, during which Barria yielded one run over 11 innings, and his two-run performance on Sunday over 5 1/3 innings -- his longest start of the season.
“It gives me a boost of confidence, knowing I'm able to pitch against the top teams, like Houston and the Dodgers,” Barria said through an interpreter. “It gives me a ton of confidence about it.
“You know, you have to bring your 'A' game, especially against lineups like that. I have to be on the top of my game.”
In five career outings vs. Houston, Barria has allowed eight runs over 26 1/3 innings for a 2.73 ERA. That’s a small sampling, but all five starts have come over the past two seasons -- a time when the Astros’ offense has dominated the American League.
“It’s a lot of the same players, so it seems like there is some type of matchup there,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “But it’s hard to tell. It’s actually kind of a small sample even though it’s five games.”
Before this contest got out of hand in the late innings, it was plenty compelling, and Barria was largely responsible. The Astros swung freely and successfully against the Halos’ bullpen, but they had no such luck against Barria, who previously had been stung by the long ball several times this season.
He had no issues against the powerful Astros' lineup. Houston hitters logged three hits -- two singles and a double -- off Barria, scoring twice -- once in the first on a Yordan Alvarez ground-ball out, and in the fourth on a base hit by Josh Reddick.
At one point, Barria retired eight straight, and he ended his outing with five consecutive outs, including a strikeout of Alex Bregman, his final batter in the sixth.
“Barria was tough today,” Bregman said. “He threw a lot of sliders, and we were able to get to the bullpen a little bit. Give Barria a lot of credit. He was good.”
“I think he had a better understanding of the game plan and where to attack these guys,” catcher Kevan Smith said. “I think he had a good understanding of where to locate the fastball, and he just trusted all his offspeed [pitches]. There were just a couple times where we kind of repeated pitches too many times instead of changing it up, just keeping them a little more off-balance. But he did a great job.”
Prior to this start, Barria, who has been shuttled back and forth from Triple-A Salt Lake to Los Angeles many times over the course of the season, allowed at least one homer in each of his past nine outings at the Major League level. In a road start on Aug. 4, he yielded three homers to the Indians, and five days later, he gave up two big flies to the Red Sox at Fenway Park. He also allowed one home run in the second game of a doubleheader against the Rangers at Globe Life Park on Tuesday.
In fact, Sunday marked the first appearance since April 27 in Kansas City that Barria did not allow a home run. Entering the game, the Astros had the third-highest home run total in the American League with 220.
“With a team like [the Astros], I know I have to pitch down and not make too many mistakes against a team like that,” Barria said. “I know they have a lot of power on that side.”