HOUSTON (AP) — Houston manager A.J. Hinch said the top of the eighth inning on Saturday night was one of the ugliest innings the Astros have had all season.
The bottom half of the inning was easily one of the team’s best innings of the year.
Justin Verlander struck out 11 in six dominant innings, Jose Altuve capped a nine-run eighth with a two-run homer, and the Houston Astros rallied for a 10-5 win over the Los Angeles Angels.
“It happened fast,” Hinch said. “Just guys doing their part and then we got a little fortunate that they made a mistake. A lot of quality at-bats, one mistake, a lot of key hits, three or four walks led to a huge inning.”
After the Angels scored five times in the top of the eighth, Yuli Gurriel, Brian McCann and Evan Gattis each hit RBI singles off of Ty Buttrey (0-1) to close the lead to 5-4.
“They found holes and they capitalized on some mistakes I made on some pitches,” Buttrey said. “There’s not much you can do in that situation but control what you can control.”
With the bases loaded and one out, pinch-hitter Tyler White hit a chopper to third baseman Taylor Ward, whose throw sailed into right field for an error and allowed two runs to score.
“I was trying to get to first base as fast as possible,” White said. “I know we needed that run. That’s not really how you draw it up, but it got the job done. It got the runs in.”
Angels manager Mike Scioscia said the Angels had timing on their side on White’s chopper, but the throw got away from Ward.
“He just lost it up and away,” Scioscia said. “It’s like we said, he’s got to experience a lot of things. He’s playing in a big ballpark against a team that’s in first place and he’ll make that play next time.”
George Springer followed with a two-run single off of Blake Parker. Altuve, who led off the inning with a walk, launched a two-run homer onto the train tracks in left field.
“I looked over at Dallas (Keuchel), and I was like ‘You know, they could easily hand us this game,'” Gattis said. “I think everyone on this team believes that and knows that we are never out of it.”
The AL West-leading Astros remain 3½ games ahead of Oakland.
Verlander allowed one hit and hit one batter in six innings. The right-hander retired the last 15 batters he faced after allowing Justin Upton’s single to lead off the second, including ten by strikeout.
“I kept trying to attack the zone and be the aggressor,” Verlander said. “Those tight ballgames, one pitch can kill you. I was just trying to execute. I had good fastball control. I was able to use my off speed effectively when I needed to. I kept them off-balanced.”
Verlander reached double digits in strikeouts for the third straight outing and has 12 such games this season. He set a career high with 280 strikeouts, besting the 269 he had in 2009.
Houston’s pitching staff broke a major league record by striking out 1,615 batters this season, reaching the mark when Roberto Osuna fanned Sherman Johnson to lead off the ninth. The Astros have eight games remaining.
The Angels jumped on the Astros’ bullpen in the eighth. Francisco Arcia tied the game at 1 with an RBI double off Hector Rondon, and Mike Trout launched a three-run homer to left-center off Joe Smith. Andrelton Simmons added an RBI double.
Collin McHugh (6-2) earned the win after getting the final two outs in the top of the eighth.
Gattis hit an RBI single in the fourth to put the Astros ahead.
Jaime Barria allowed one run on four hits in five innings.
TROUT’S HOME RUN BARRAGE
Trout homered in his third straight game and fifth home run in his last six games. He now has 38 on the season, three shy of his career-high 41 he hit in 2015.
Angels: 1B Jose Fernandez left with a bruised right hand after being hit by a 96-mph fastball from Verlander in the first inning. X-rays were negative. The pitch was the 14th of the at-bat. Jefry Marte replaced Fernandez.
RHP Charlie Morton (15-3, 3.15 ERA) starts the series finale Sunday against LHP Tyler Skaggs (8-8, 3.69). Morton is on a three-game winning streak and has allowed three runs or fewer in each of his last three starts. Skaggs is making his second start since coming off the disabled list after throwing three scoreless innings in his last outing Tuesday at the Athletics.
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