HOUSTON — With Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel the only locks for the postseason rotation, Houston Astros starters have firmed up their candidacies recently with a string of noteworthy performances, with right-hander Charlie Morton again underscoring his viability on Saturday.
Morton worked seven innings for the first time since Aug. 5, while Carlos Correa recorded his first three-hit game since returning from the disabled list and teamed with Evan Gattis to pace the Astros to a 6-2 victory over the fading Los Angeles Angels at Minute Maid Park.
Correa finished 3-for-3 with a walk and three RBIs, posting his fifth three-hit game and sixth game with three-plus RBIs. Correa got the Astros (95-59) on the board with a run-scoring single in the first inning before adding a two-out RBI double in the fifth and an RBI single in the seventh.
Gattis followed the Correa double in the fifth with a three-run homer for his 12th on the season. The Astros’ four-run rally came against right-hander Eduardo Paredes, who relieved Angels starter Bud Norris (2-6) with one out in the fourth inning. Gattis also posted three RBIs.
The top four hitters in the Astros order finished a combined 8-for-14 and scored all six runs.
“We could have won in a lot of different ways today but those guys that are normally at the bottom of our order, step up at the top of our order and produce,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “It was a good day.”
Morton (13-7) capitalized on the early lead by producing an efficient outing to complement that run support, allowing one run on four hits and one walk with five strikeouts.
Morton faced the minimum over his first five innings, inducing a pair of inning-ending double plays to erase singles by Albert Pujols in the second inning and Brandon Phillips in the fifth. Morton had just 42 pitches on his ledger entering the sixth, completing the second and third innings on nine pitches each while tossing five pitches in the fourth inning and eight in the fifth.
“My sinker was moving pretty good today,” Morton said. “They were aggressive and stacked righties. I threw some decent changeups, some decent sinkers and fortunately the balls that were put in play found some guys.”
Said Angels center fielder Mike Trout of Morton: “He had good stuff today. He was sinking it, cutting it obviously with that curveball. He threw a couple of changeups as well. Just keeping us off-balance and we were just missing pitches.”
Angels’ left fielder Justin Upton ended the shutout bid with a leadoff home run in the seventh inning, his 33rd on the season. Upton added his 34th homer leading off the ninth against Astros reliever Will Harris for his 16th career multi-homer game.
The Angels (76-78) mustered just five hits total while suffering their season-high-tying sixth consecutive defeat with the second American League wild card on the line.
“Right now there is a number of guys who are not having hits fall in, that are struggling a little bit,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “I think the quality of at-bats are pretty consistent but at times we’re missing some pitches.
“So as far as our lineup being deeper, there’s no doubt it’s deeper but hopefully it’s going to take that one spark to get these guys to start get some momentum and start to pressure other teams. We’ve had a tough time doing it this whole week.”
The Astros have won eight of nine and will pursue a series sweep on Sunday. Houston is 36 games over .500 for the first time since concluding the 1998 campaign with a 102-60 record.
NOTES: Facing a noon start following a night game, Astros manager A.J. Hinch rested a number of regulars, including OF George Springer, 2B Jose Altuve, C Brian McCann and DH Carlos Beltran. With Springer, OF Josh Reddick (back) and Altuve unavailable, 3B Alex Bregman hit leadoff for just the second time this season. ... When Angels LF Justin Upton opened the seventh inning with a home run to left field, it snapped a string of 23 scoreless innings for Los Angeles. ... With his second double of the game, Astros 2B Marwin Gonzalez pushed the Astros’ season total to 326 doubles, which matched the franchise record set in 1998.