Musgrove helps Astros keep postseason hope alive
HOUSTON -- Injuries and underperforming veterans have forced the Houston Astros to rely on a rotating collection of rookies who have occasionally scuffled under the pressure of a postseason chase. During other moments, the kids have been all right.
Rookie right-hander Joe Musgrove worked seven strong innings while rookies Tony Kemp and Tyler White belted home runs to offer support in the Houston Astros’ 4-1 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday at Minute Maid Park.
With the Astros bullpen reeling after blowing three-run leads in each of the last two games, Musgrove (4-4) provided the desired length to spare the relief corps too much labor. He allowed one run on seven hits while recording four strikeouts. He did not walk a batter for the first time in six starts and capped a strong stretch of home appearances with a 1.75 ERA over six games (five starts) at Minute Maid Park.
“I told (Astros manager) A.J. (Hinch) during the game that I felt good and wanted to keep it going,” Musgrove said of pitching seven innings for the first time since Aug. 12 at Toronto. “He had the trust and faith in me to do that so I went out there and backed it up.”
The Astros (82-74) snapped their three-game skid and kept their slim American League wild-card hopes alive. With six games remaining Houston trails Detroit (83-72), Seattle (82-73) and Baltimore (85-71) in the chase for the final wild-card spot behind the Blue Jays (86-69). The Astros will host the Mariners for a critical three-game series starting on Monday night.
Evan Gattis and Kemp launched leadoff home runs in the second and fifth innings, respectively, with Gattis belting his team-leading 31st homer while Kemp recorded the first of his career. White added his eighth home run with one out in the seventh inning off Brett Oberholtzer, his first dinger since his two-homer game on May 17.
Gattis and Kemp homered off Angels right-hander Daniel Wright (0-5), who allowed three runs on seven hits and two walks with four strikeouts over six innings. Wright surrendered an RBI single to Astros shortstop Carlos Correa in the first inning, a two-out hit that scored Jose Altuve and provided the Astros a 1-0 lead.
The Gattis and Kemp home runs came on the first pitch of those respective at-bats.
“I left the changeup up to Kemp that he hit out, and then the fastball up to Gattis to lead off both those innings,” Wright said. “You never want to go out there and kind of ease yourself into an inning. So I just have to get better at going out there from the first pitch of each inning and be ready to go.”
Said Angels manager Mike Scioscia of Wright: “He’s starting to adapt; he’s starting to understand the stuff a little bit better. And I think with that he’s going to grow some confidence that every young player needs.”
Houston led 6-3 in the eighth inning on Friday and 4-1 in the eighth on Saturday only for the Angels (69-87) to rally to victory each time. In the finale, right-handers Will Harris and Ken Giles each issued walks yet worked a scoreless inning in relief.
For Giles, it was his 14th save on the season. It also put an end to a difficult weekend, one that featured a blown save on Friday night and a freak injury on Saturday when he took a line drive off his right wrist during early batting practice.
“A lot better,” Giles said of his physical condition. “I focused on staying loose and trying not to think about it too much. Just going out there and trying to throw strikes, that’s all I was trying to do today.”
NOTES: Astros RHP Ken Giles pitched despite suffering a right wrist contusion when he was struck during early batting practice on Saturday. X-rays were negative, and while there was bruising on Giles’ wrist, the damage wasn’t significant enough to hamper his availability. ... A number of Astros wrote the No. 16 on their caps in memory of Marlins RHP Jose Fernandez, who died in a boating accident overnight. The club honored Fernandez with a moment of silence prior to the national anthem. ... The Angels concluded their road schedule with a losing record (34-47) for just the third time in the last 13 seasons. ... By erasing late three-run deficits on Friday and Saturday, the Angels won consecutive games after trailing by three runs or more in the eighth inning or later for the first time in franchise history.