Angels pull out win over Astros
HOUSTON — The Los Angeles Angels aren’t ready for a concession speech.
“You’ve got to win out. We know that,” Angels starter Tyler Skaggs said about his team still being in the playoff race following a 7-5 win over the Houston Astros on Sunday at Minute Maid Park.
Brandon Phillips and Justin Upton homered and drove in two runs apiece, and Luis Valbuena also had two RBIs for Los Angeles.
The Angels (77-78) sit 4 1/2 games behind the Minnesota Twins (82-74) in the hunt for the second American League wild-card slot. Los Angeles has seven games left; Minnesota has six games remaining.
The Angels had been held to just three runs in the past 28 innings heading into Sunday’s game. They scored seven runs in a game for the first time since Sept. 15.
“I know it made our pitching staff feel good, I’ll tell you that,” Phillips said about the offensive improvement. “And it felt good as a team to go ahead and score some runs and know we have a chance to really go out there and win. When you’re not scoring any runs, you can’t really believe in your team. You can’t believe in everybody else when you’re not scoring runs.”
In the seventh, Valbuena drove a two-run double to the wall in right-center off Chris Devenski (8-6), breaking a tie and giving the Angels the 6-4 lead.
“I waited for my pitch,” Valbuena said. “He threw me a good pitch, but I just made a good swing.”
After George Springer hit his 33rd home run of the season to cut into the lead in the bottom of the seventh, Upton answered with his 35th long ball to make it 7-5 in the eighth.
The come-from-behind win snapped a six-game losing streak for the Angels and was their 45th comeback win of the year, tying the Los Angeles Dodgers for the most in the majors.
Keynan Middleton (6-1) got the win after striking out two in a perfect sixth inning. Blake Parker threw a scoreless ninth for the save, his seventh in nine chances this season.
The Astros’ bullpen struggled after Lance McCullers was able to only go 3 1/3 innings. Seven Houston relievers gave up five runs on seven hits in 5 2/3 innings.
Devenski allowed two runs on three hits with one walk in one inning.
Astros manager A.J. Hinch was ejected in the bottom of the seventh inning after Evan Gattis was called out for batter’s interference to end the frame.
“I wanted a lot of things that inning, but he didn’t want to hear it,” Hinch said about the ejection. “That’s why I ended up going to my office. There was really no reason to throw me out. I didn’t curse at him, I didn’t go over the top. It just ended up it went his way when he’s the boss on the field.”
With Houston trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the third, Astros third baseman Alex Bregman turned on a pitch from Skaggs for his for a two-run shot. It was Bregman’s 17th long ball of the season.
Gattis added to it with his 20th double of the season, driving in Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa, pushing the lead to 4-1.
Sunday marked the first time Skaggs surrendered four or more runs in a start since Sept. 1, when he gave up six against the Texas Rangers.
Skaggs finished giving up four runs on six hits, walking two and striking out three in five innings in a no-decision.
“We definitely played a lot looser today,” Skaggs said. “The offense played great today. And I was sad that I gave it up right there, but at the same time, our team played great today.”
The Angels got one back in the fourth when Phillips blasted his 12th home run of the season, bouncing a McCullers curveball off the train tracks, making it 4-2.
“McCullers has got really good stuff,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “So I think our guys did a good job of getting pitches in the zone and hitting them. I think Brandon was right there. Hit the ball hard a couple of times. The double and the home run and took the walk with bases loaded. He had a good night.”
One batter later, McCullers’ night was over. In his first start since Sept. 6, McCullers gave up two runs on four hits, walking one and striking out four in 3 1/3 innings in a no-decision.
McCullers threw just 63 pitches in his shortest outing of the season. It was his shortest outing since he lasted one-third of an inning against the Texas Rangers on Aug. 3, 2015.
“I’m ready to take the ball. It’s more about me being able to get out there again and feel good throughout the week,” McCullers said. “I feel really good right now. That’s a real good sign. I didn’t bounce back last time. They’re giving me as much rest as possible to give me the best chance to respond well and pitch well in October.”
In the fifth inning, Houston reliever Francis Martes struggled. With the bases loaded and two outs, Martes walked Phillips, scoring Kole Calhoun, who singled earlier, making it 4-3.
James Hoyt entered the game and walked Andrelton Simmons, scoring Mike Trout from third and tying the game at 4-4.
The Angels struck first in the third inning as Martin Maldonado scored on a fielder’s choice. Upton, who drove in a run on the play, reached as the Astros (95-60) were trying to turn an inning-ending double play. Upton’s RBI total of 108 is second in the American League.
NOTES: CF George Springer’s 33 home runs this season are the most hit by a Houston player since Chris Carter had 37 in 2014. ... LF Justin Upton has six home runs in his past eight games and seven home runs for the Angels since being acquired from the Detroit Tigers on Aug. 31. ... Sunday night was Houston RHP Lance McCullers’ second start since July 30. McCullers has battled back discomfort and arm fatigue this season. The arm fatigue was the reason for his scratch from the Sept. 13 start in Anaheim. ... In 10 starts since returning from the disabled list, Angels LHP Tyler Skaggs is 1-5 with a 4.76 ERA.