By Richard Dean and Ben DuBose
Special to MLB.com |
HOUSTON -- Evan Gattis delivered the big blast, Carlos Correa reached base four times and Marwin Gonzalez added three hits -- two doubles -- to back up Charlie Morton's efficient pitching in the Astros' 6-2 win Saturday at Minute Maid Park, sending the Angels to their sixth straight loss.
The Angels fell 4 1/2 games behind the Twins for the second American League Wild Card spot, while the Astros remained 1 1/2 games behind the Indians for the AL's best record.
Gattis' three-run homer to left capped a four-run fifth inning off Angels reliever Eduardo Paredes that broke the game open. Gattis' 12th homer of the season had an exit velocity of 103 mph with a launch angle of 30 degrees, according to Statcast™. The projected distance was 423 feet.
All of the runs in the fifth came after the Astros had two outs and nobody on base.
"I can't put my finger on it, but it's definitely great," Gattis said of Houston's two-out success. "Any time you can extend the inning, you're never out until you are. It was a great game, and it was a fun game to catch. We're just rolling."
With the win, the AL West champions clinched the series with their 95th victory of the season and have won nine of their last 11 games. Morton's 13 wins and 159 strikeouts are single-season career highs for the 10-year veteran in his first season in Houston. He allowed only one run and four hits in seven innings on only 81 pitches, including just 42 through the first five frames.
"It looks like they either sensed that he was going to be a strike-thrower or just didn't want to let the at-bats get too deep," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "They were swinging really early, and he was getting three or four innings in a row of sub-10 pitch counts, which means he's throwing quality strikes."
Justin Upton had two of the Angels' five hits, homering in the seventh and the ninth to give him 34 on the season. His seventh-inning blast was a towering shot to left field off Morton (13-7) that Statcast™ projected at 395 feet. His second homer was projected at 421 feet. Former Astro Bud Norris (2-6) made a spot start for the Angels, only his second of the year. The right-hander was lifted after throwing a season-high 46 pitches in 3 1/3 innings of one-run ball.
"Right now, there are a number of guys not having hits fall in, they're struggling," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "We missed a lot of pitches today. Hopefully, it's going to take that one spark [to] get these guys to get some momentum and pressure other teams."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Two-out rally: Though Morton was dealing, the Astros' offense looked lethargic in the early going. After scoring once three batters into the first, the Astros didn't score again until there were two outs in the fifth. Alex Bregman was hit by a pitch to start the rally, advanced to second on a single from Gonzalez and scored on Correa's RBI double. Then Gattis, batting cleanup, put an exclamation point on the inning by blasting a three-run homer to deep left off Paredes.
"He has a little bit of rise it looks like," Gattis said of the pitch from Paredes that he homered on, an 0-1 fastball high on the inner half of the plate. "Not so much tail, but it doesn't sink. So I was trying to get on top of the ball and look more middle-middle, look to my strengths. I got one more middle up and just stayed on top of it. I just missed one last night, just got underneath it. So I was just trying to get on top."
Astros strike early: Many of the Astros' regulars were out Saturday due to the early start time, but two who remained made an impact early. Bregman led off the bottom of the first with a single, stole second base and then scored on a one-out RBI single from Correa. That put Morton and the Astros in front from the outset.
"It's unfair for anyone who expected him to just seamlessly transition from an injury to being back in form, both strength and production. I know he's sort of Superman, but he does deserve a ramp to get himself ready. The back end of his rehab was in the big leagues. We brought him up here once he was deemed healthy, not necessarily once he had enough at-bats. The fact that he's made these adjustments, it's good for him to see. Because of the time missed, we don't want anyone to be uncomfortable timing-wise going into the postseason. Hitting the ball squarely a couple times, coming up big, getting the intentional walk will tell you the other side certainly doesn't disrespect him. It's a good day for him." -- Hinch, on Correa, who went 3-for-3 with a double and three RBIs
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In 16 plate appearances Saturday, the top four in Houston's lineup -- Bregman, Gonzalez, Correa and Gattis -- collected eight hits, six RBIs, four extra-base hits and reached base 10 times.
"Those guys are normally at the bottom of our order, guys like Gattis, even Marwin and Bregman have been down a little bit," Hinch said. "To have them step up at the top of the order and produce, it was a good day."
WHAT'S NEXT Angels:Tyler Skaggs (2-6, 4.30 ERA), who was on the disabled list from April 29 to Aug. 5 with a right oblique strain, will be making his 15th start of the season and third against Houston on Sunday at 5:05 p.m. PT. The left-hander is 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA against the Astros this year.
Astros:Lance McCullers Jr. (7-3, 3.97 ERA) is set to start in the series finale at Minute Maid Park at 7:05 p.m. CT. It will be the right-hander's first start since Sept. 6 at Seattle. He's been out the past 2 1/2 weeks with arm fatigue.