HOUSTON, TEXAS – SEPTEMBER 09: Chas McCormick #20 of the Houston Astros hits a two run in the seventh inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Minute Maid Park on September 09, 2022 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Chas McCormick hit a two run homer in the seventh and Lance McCullers pitched seven strong innings as the Astros pulled out a 4-3 win over the Angels on Friday night at Minute Maid Park.
The winning runs came when Trey Mancini singled to lead off the 7th inning, then McCormick hit his eighth consecutive opposite field homer to erase a 2-1 deficit and give the Astros a lead.
The Astros then added some insurance in the eighth as Jeremy Pena singled to lead off the inning. Yordan Alvarez walked, Alex Bregman struck out on a questionable call, then Kyle Tucker tapped out to move the runners to second and third. Mancini walked to load the bases with two out. McCormick walked to pick up another RBI and give the Astros a two-run lead.
Rafael Montero pitched a 1-2-3 eighth and Ryan Pressley, fresh off the IL, picked up his 26th save despite giving up a long home run to Taylor Ward.
The game was a pitcher’s duel at the beginning. Angels starter Michael Lorenzen, who has struggled most of the year, allowed just one hit through five innings. Lorenzen entered the night with a 7.52 ERA on the road. He wound up allowing one run on three hits in 5 2/3rd innings. It lowered his overall ERA to 4.70.
Meanwhile, McCullers was dealing for the Astros. The Angels were 1-for-9 against him the first time through the lineup. He worked out of a jam in the top of the fourth when Shohei Ohtani doubled off the left field wall with one out. (By the way, the idea that Alvarez can’t play outfield is a joke. He positioned himself to play the ball perfectly off the wall, but nothing could stop Ohtani from doubling). Meanwhile, McCullers induced a deep fly out from Taylor Ward that advanced Ohtani to third, then got Luis Rengifo to fly out to right to end the threat.
The Angels finally got to McCullers in the top of the sixth, when Trout hit a two run bomb to give LA a 2-0 lead. It was the fifth straight game Trout homered, giving him 33 on the year. He is tied with Ohtani for second in the AL. Max Stassi had a lead-off walk to set up Trout’s two-run HR. It was Trout’s first home run at Minute Maid since 2019.
Trout’s homer was the only mistake of the night for McCullers, who pitched 7 innings, allowed 4 hits, 2 runs, struck out 6 and walked one. He wound up over 100 pitches for the first time this season with 105 and McCormick’s blast gave him the win and made his record 3-1.
The Astros answered Trout in the bottom of the sixth, when Pena hit his 17th homer of the year with one out. Alvarez followed that up with a double to deep center, but Bregman flew out to center, then Tucker struck out chasing a pitch well out of the strike zone to leave the Astros down 2-1. McCormick would bail them out an inning later.
The Astros had their chances early, starting in the bottom of the second, loading the bases on three walks. Alex Bregman had a lead-off walk, then advanced to second on a Kyle Tucker groundout. Mancini walked, then advanced to second on a McCormick ground out that sent Bregman to third. David Hensley walked to load the bases, but Martin Maldonado grounded out after just missing an extra base hit that would have put the Astros ahead. Instead they left the bases loaded.
Fortunately for the Astros, those miscues did not matter as they managed to get a win.
News and notes
Pitch perfect?: Man, what a pitching matchup Saturday. Presumptive MVP runner up Ohtani (11-8, 2.58 ERA) goes against one of the hottest Astros pitchers, José Urquidy (13-5, 3.51 ERA). Should be a fun battle.
Arms race: Per Brian McTaggart of MLB.com, Brian Abreu has not allowed a run in 20.2 innings.
Coming back?: Also according to a McTaggart tweet, “Justin Verlander threw about 30 pitches in the bullpen today and “everything went well,” pitching coach Josh Miller said. He will throw another one in a few days.”
Power pack: Let’s pretend Aaron Judge doesn’t exist. The top three home run hitters in the AL not named Judge played Friday night, with Trout (33), Ohtani (33) and Alvarez (31).