Angels Squeeze Past Astros 4-3
Albert Puljos hammered two home runs, but it took a perfectly executed safety squeeze by former Ranger Daniel Robertson to secure a 4-3 win for the Los Angeles Angels over the division-leading Houston Astros Monday.
Erick Aybar singled to lead off the eighth inning and advanced to third base due to a wild pitch by Houston Reliever Joe Thatcher and a stolen base.
Two batters later, Robertson dropped down a bunt that Astro 1B Chris Carter was forced to field. Carter’s flip to catcher Jason Castro was off the mark and Aybar scored easily giving L.A. a 4-3 lead.
It was Robertson’s second career go-ahead RBI, with both of them coming against the Astros (also July 9, 2014, while with the Rangers).
"That's as close to a defenseless play as you can get," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "I can put the first baseman at the 45-foot line and have him sit there and let him steal second. If they execute the play like that, that's manufacturing a run, and they did. That's how they won the game."
Pujols continued to be one of the hottest hitters n the Major Leagues by hitting his 11th and 12th home runs of June. He leads the American League with 23 long balls this season. He has 15 home runs in his last 15 games and is hitting .352 with only four strikeouts in his last 100 plate appearances.
Pujois’ first dinger of the night was a two-run shot off Houston starter Brett Oberholtzer in the fifth inning giving the Angles a 2-1 lead. A solo homer in the seventh off Astro reliever Josh Fields pushed the lead to 3-1.
Houston battled back in the eighth getting tying the score at 3-3 after an RBI single by Castro and a run-scoring, two-out ground rule double by Jose Altuve, both hits came off Angels’ reliever Joe Smith. Houston Street (3-2) came in and got the final out of the inning and shut the Astros down pitching a perfect ninth.
The Angels’ win narrowed Houston’s division lead to 4 ½ games.
Altuve had missed seven of the last nine games, including four consecutive with a strained hamstring injury..
"The thing I worry about the most about coming back after a layoff is strike-zone judgment, and he looked a little antsy early trying to swing at a lot of pitchers' pitches," Hinch said. "With the game on the line, I trust him as much as anybody to put a good at-bat together."
Game two of the three-game series is scheduled for a 9:05 p.m. CDT first pitch Tuesday from Anaheim. Houston is expected to give the ball to Collin McHugh (7-3, 5.04 ERA). Los Angeles is slated to send C.J. Wilson to the mound. Wilson has given up just one run in his first 15 innings of work.
The game can be heard on Sports Radio 1340 The Fan, beginning with “Astro’s Launch” at 9:40 p.m.