HOUSTON -- The Astros rolled to another sweep of the Angels on Sunday afternoon behind the little man making a big run for the American League Most Valuable Player award.
All-Star second baseman Jose Altuve clubbed a three-run homer in the first inning and a two-run homer in the second inning off Angels starter Tim Lincecum en route to a career-high six RBIs to lead the Astros to their 11th consecutive win, 13-3, -- and third sweep in a row -- at Minute Maid Park.
Astros starter Mike Fiers (7-6) rebounded from a disastrous start in Oakland last weekend by holding the Angels to three runs in seven innings. By going 37-16 since May, the Astros (54-44) improved to 10 games over .500 after being 10 under in April.
"He just had a lot of trouble commanding his fastball and commanding counts," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of Lincecum. "Those guys got some good counts to hit in, and they didn't miss things today."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Honoring "The Kid": Altuve wore white spikes in tribute to Ken Griffey Jr., who was inducted into the Hall of Fame Sunday, but his spikes weren't the only way Altuve honored Junior. The second baseman knocked his career-high 16th and 17th homers of the season in consecutive innings, propelling the Astros to an early 8-0 lead after two frames. It was Altuve's second multi-homer game of the season and a fitting way to pay respect to one of the most prolific home run hitters in Major League history.
"Best player of all time for me," Altuve said of Griffey. "He was a great player. He played the game the right way. Feel really happy for him." More >
Sluggish Timmy: Lincecum gave up eight runs and recorded only four outs, putting his ERA at 8.70 through his first seven starts since undergoing major hip surgery in September. The 32-year-old right-hander has allowed 31 runs (29 earned) in 30 innings, giving up 54 hits (nine of them home runs) and walking 15. Scioscia said Lincecum will remain in the rotation. But based on his performance thus far, he probably won't get many more chances.
"I'm confident in the process, that this is part of what I'm going through right now," Lincecum said. "If it takes going through this, then it takes going through this. And if they have to make a decision that puts me in a different position, then I'll be open to that. But at the same time, I'm definitely going to go after this as a starter and still keep grinding it out that way, and try to give my team a chance to win. I haven't been doing that." More >
Fier-ing back: After getting rocked for six hits and five runs in 3 2/3 innings -- and subsequently having a run-in with manager A.J. Hinch and outfielder Carlos Gomez in the dugout -- in his most recent start Monday in Oakland, Fiers tied a season high by throwing seven innings and allowing three runs on nine hits while not walking anyone.
"I thought he came out with a more aggressive mindset," Hinch said. "His body language was good. His tempo was up a tick. He looked like a man on a mission to pitch well and take command of the game early."
Sloppy, sloppy: The Angels fell behind early, but they also didn't help themselves fundamentally in the second inning. Andrelton Simmons looked to tag up from first on a fly ball to deep center field, then stopped halfway, tried anyway and was thrown out at second base by Gomez in the top half. In the bottom half, left fielder Daniel Nava couldn't reach a high fly ball from Tucker that instead fell in front of him and went for a ground-rule double.
"He is. He can steal bases, he can play good [defense], he's a Gold Glover, Silver Slugger, batting champion. He's probably going to be the MVP this year, and for me, he is." -- Correa on if Altuve is the best player in baseball
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The Angels' losing streak against the Astros is their longest against a single team in 36 years. They dropped 12 straight to the Orioles from 1979-80 and to the Royals in 1975. They also lost 11 in a row to the Tigers from 1979-80.
In Lincecum's first nine career starts against the Astros (63 1/3 innings pitched), he was almost unhittable, allowing only seven earned runs with a 0.99 ERA while striking out 70 batters. But in Lincecum's two starts since, "The Freak" has been freakishly bad, giving up 13 runs (all earned) in only 5 2/3 innings.
WHAT'S NEXT Angels: Lefty Hector Santiago (8-4, 4.32 ERA) pitches opposite right-hander Ian Kennedy (6-8, 4.28 ERA) when the Angels begin a three-game series against the Royals at Kauffman Stadium on Monday, with first pitch set for 5:15 p.m. PT. Santiago has a 1.70 ERA in 42 1/3 career innings against the Royals. He has a 2.28 ERA in his last seven starts overall.
Astros: The club's No. 1 prospect, Alex Bregman, is expected to be in the lineup for his Major League debut Monday, when Dallas Keuchel (6-9, 4.70 ERA) takes the mound at Minute Maid Park in a 7:10 p.m. CT start. Keuchel has had a lot of success against the Yankees in his career (4-1, 1.22 ERA in five starts in regular and postseason), notching 31 strikeouts in as many career innings pitched. Overall, Keuchel is 2-0 with a 2.79 ERA in last six starts.