Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Astros' offense torments Angels in opener

Jose AltuveCarlos Correa and Jason Castro clubbed homers to back another strong outing by starting pitcher Doug Fister to lead the Astros to one of their biggest offensive outbursts of the season, a 10-7 win over the Angels on Monday at Minute Maid Park.
Five different Astros players had multi-hit games, led by outfielders Colby Rasmus (3-for-5) and Carlos Gomez (3-for-4). RBI singles by Rasmus and Gomez helped the Astros to a 3-0 lead in the first against Jhoulys Chacin (2-3), and the Astros led, 6-0, after three innings on RBI hits by Luis Valbuena and Evan Gattis.
The Astros, winners of 18 of their last 26 games, are only one game under .500 (35-36).
"We're feeling good," Altuve said. "We're trying to be consistent and we're trying to do what we know to do. We want to win some games and create some momentum to keep going. We have the second half coming soon, so we need to be ready for that."
Fister won his seventh consecutive decision to improve to 8-3 by allowing two runs and four hits in seven innings.
Gregorio Petit hit a ninth-inning grand slam off Tony Sipp to cut the lead to 10-7 and force the Astros to bring in Pat Neshek to get the final two outs. Chacin, charged with six runs (five earned) in two-plus innings, put the Angels in too deep a hole.
"He was just missing," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He definitely had a hard time getting pitches in the zones he wanted to. I don't think he had an opportunity to get some counts to bring his breaking stuff, his secondary pitches, into the game. And after a while those guys were just waiting him out and had some pretty good swings."
Early and often: Every starting player in the Astros' lineup had a hit with the exception ofGeorge Springer, who had a pair of walks and scored. The 15 hits were the second-most by the Astros in a game this season as they reached double-digit runs for only the third time this year (also May 4 and June 3).
"It's hard to point out one thing," Rasmus said. "I feel we worked them pretty good. Some of those balls we have been hitting at guys found some holes. I got out to second base and Petit's like, 'Everything y'all are hitting is finding the hole.' It's nice for it to happen to us because we've hit so many hard balls at people." More >
Walk the line: Chacin's command was noticeably off in the series opener. He recorded only one more out (six) than he issued walks (five), and he also hit a batter, forcing the Angels' bullpen to pick up six innings. Chacin threw only 37 of his 72 pitches for strikes, fell behind on 11 of the 17 batters he faced and had three-ball counts with seven of them. The 28-year-old right-hander has allowed 17 runs in 17 1/3 innings this month, giving up 26 hits, issuing 13 walks and striking out only seven batters.
"I just couldn't throw the ball over the plate," Chacin said. "It's unacceptable to only throw two innings and make the bullpen throw six innings, put the team in a hole. The other guys had been pitching really well the last few games. I need to figure things out. I need to keep working and get back to who I used to be, especially throwing strikes. That's the biggest thing for me." More >
Fister keeps rolling: Fister has allowed three runs or fewer in all but one of his starts this year for the Astros, who haven't lost with him on the mound since he dropped three consecutive decisions at the end of April. Since the start of May, he's 7-0 with a 2.38 ERA in 10 starts. It's the Astros' longest winning streak in games started by one pitcher since Collin McHugh's 11-game run from Aug. 28, 2014-May 7, 2015.
"We play good when he pitches and he sets the tempo," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "It starts with the starting pitcher. We do a good job behind him, and he continues to pound the strike zone. I was impressed with how he changed pace quite a bit during the outing with his breaking ball. He held them down while we continued to tack runs and as we separated, it's right into his wheelhouse where he can cut it, he can sink it, he can throw these slow curveballs."
Not breaking right: Gold Glove Award-winning right fielder Kole Calhoun had a rough night defensively, committing two errors in a game for the first time in his career and watching another ball bounce off his glove. Calhoun's throw home in the first skipped wide, allowing Rasmus to take second and later score. In the third, Calhoun muffed Gomez's single to bring Correa in. Two batters later, Calhoun raced near the track and saw Valbuena's line drive ricochet off his glove, scoring Rasmus. Calhoun had committed only two errors in his previous 111 games.
"The groundball, he just took his eye off of it," Scioscia said. "The ball he hit in right field was scorched. It was a little bit tougher a catch than it might have looked like. But usually when Kole gets leather on a ball you're out."
"He hit the two balls to the shortstop and before his third at-bat, he says, 'I'm tired of hitting the ball to the shortstop and I might as well hit it out of the park.' And then he did. That's Jose Altuve in a nutshell." -- Hinch, on his second baseman, who hit the ball 431 feet
Correa's 31 career home runs as a shortstop rank tied for second on the Astros all-time list with fellow Puerto Rican Dickie Thon, trailing only Adam Everett (35).
Petit's grand slam, against the team he spent the 2014 season with, was the first of his career and the first by the Angels this season. Mike Trout hit the last one on Sept. 17, 2015, against current teammate A.J. Achter.
Hinch successfully challenged a call in the third, resulting in the final out of the inning. The umpire originally awarded Trout first base on a hit by pitch, but the call was overturned when replay showed the ball hit the knob of the bat and was fielded for an out. In the seventh inning, a crew chief review of what was originally called a Castro home run was upheld after replay.
Angels: Hector Santiago takes the ball for the second of a three-game series against the Astros. The 28-year-old left-hander is coming off holding the Twins to one run and four baserunners in six innings, but he had a 12.18 ERA in his previous five starts.
Astros: McHugh takes the mound for the Astros when they face the Angels at 7:10 p.m. CT Tuesday at Minute Maid Park. McHugh is coming off one of his best games of the season, allowing one run and seven hits in 6 2/3 innings Wednesday in St. Louis.

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