Altuve serenaded by Astros after win over Angels
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Despite a frustrating season that ended short of expectations, champagne flowed in the Houston Astros’ clubhouse Saturday night.
Jose Altuve practically ensured his second American League batting championship in three seasons by going 2-for-4 in a 3-0 win over the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium.
Altuve will enter Sunday’s season finale with a .338 average. Mookie Betts and Dustin Pedroia of the Boston Red Sox share second place at .320.
“It couldn’t have happened to a better guy,” right-hander Collin McHugh said. “He’s obviously an amazing ballplayer but he’s a better person more than anything else. It’s a great morale booster for us, the team, the organization and the city of Houston.”
Astros manager A.J. Hinch decided to honor Altuve with the champagne, which was poured into small plastic cups so the Venezuelan’s teammates could toast him.
“I wanted to make sure he got recognized in front of the team,” Hinch said. “Very rarely do you get a batting champion in front of you. He’s been excellent all season and the team was excited to celebrate him, so we raised a glass to him.”
Altuve even autographed one of his jerseys for Tony Kemp, who played second base while Altuve served as the designated hitter.
“I might sleep with this tonight,” said Kemp, who took a picture of the jersey with his cell phone.
Altuve added two stolen bases and scored a run. Evan Gattis drove in two runs while Jake Marisnick had three hits, including a double, drove in a run and stole a base to lead Houston’s 10-hit attack.
McHugh (13-10) combined with two relievers on a four-hit shutout for his sixth successive victory. The right-hander retired the first 14 Angels he faced, induced 10 groundouts, collected four strikeouts, allowed three hits, issued one walk and hit one batter in 7 2/3 innings.
“I threw a lot more sinkers than I have in the last year or so,” McHugh said. “With the big power guys, you’ve got to keep them honest. I was throwing a lot of strikes. At one point, I think it was 30-something strikes to eight balls. I thought, ‘O.K., if we keep attacking like this and keep getting quick outs, we’ll give ourselves a pretty good shot.'”
The Angels brought the potential winning run to the plate with two out in the bottom of the ninth inning. C.J. Cron lined a double down the right-field line with one out, then Andrelton Simmons walked with two out. But right-hander Ken Giles made Rafael Ortega fly out to center fielder Marisnick for his 15th save.
Los Angeles left-hander Tyler Skaggs lasted only 1 2/3 innings in his first start since Sept. 9. Skaggs (3-4) allowed one run, three hits and two walks while throwing 45 pitches.
Skaggs, who had Tommy John surgery in 2014, rested the past three weeks after straining his left forearm in his last start.
“He’s healthy, and that the most important thing,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “He maintained his stuff. All those pitches looked sharp. He threw them all and he feels great.”
Houston took a 1-0 lead in the second despite a mental error. Tyler White walked with one out, then took third base when Teoscar Hernandez lined a single into left field. Hernandez tried to stretch his hit into a double but left fielder Jefry Marte threw Hernandez out by a wide margin.
After Kemp walked, Marisnick lined another single to left to score White and chase Skaggs.
The visitors extended their lead to 2-0 in the third. Yulieski Gurriel began the inning with a double down the left-field line, moved to third on Altuve’s deep fly out and came home on Gattis’ infield single with two out. Gattis drove in his second run in the seventh with an RBI single.
NOTES: Houston’s 27-18 road record since June 14 is the major leagues’ best during that period entering Saturday night’s game. ... Astros C Evan Gattis needs one home run to tie the team record for most in September. Richard Hidalgo and Lance Berkman share the record with 11. ... Astros INF Colin Moran celebrated his 24th birthday. ... Los Angeles OF Mike Trout and RHP Matt Shoemaker were named the team’s most valuable player and pitcher of the year, respectively. ... Angels 3B Yunel Escobar returned to the starting lineup after missing the past two games with a sore right shoulder. ... The Angels set an American League record with 24 different winning pitchers this year. RHP Daniel Wright became the 24th Friday night. ... RHP Jhoulys Chacin (5-8) will pitch for the Angels against Astros RHP Brady Rodgers (0-0) in Sunday’s season finale. Rodgers will make his first major-league start