Thursday, June 23, 2016

Astros sweep Angels with 5th straight win

 Marwin Gonzalez hit a tiebreaking RBI triple off the center-field wall then scored on a fielder's choice to send the red-hot Astros to a 3-2 victory and a three-game sweep of the Angels on Wednesday afternoon at Minute Maid Park.
The Astros, who are over .500 for the first time since they beat the Yankees on Opening Day, have won five in a row and seven of their last eight games. They're 30-19 since May 1 and have won 12 of their last 14 games at Minute Maid Park.
"It's interesting to watch our team start to grow confidence again in similar fashion to how it should be," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "I like the energy and the vibe and the smiles that are happening when we're playing pretty good baseball."
Astros starter Lance McCullers gave up one run and six hits in 5 2/3 innings. The Angels scored on an RBI single by Yunel Escobar in the third to take a 1-0 lead, but Jose Altuvetied it in the sixth with a solo homer -- his second in as many games -- off starter Matt Shoemaker, who was charged with all three runs in 7 1/3 innings of work.
Marwin delivers: Gonzalez has made the most of his recent playing time, delivering the go-ahead hit in the eighth inning to cap a good homestand. He went 7-for-22 (.318) in the homestand, starting all six games at first base following the demotion of Tyler White to Triple-A Fresno. In his last 20 games, he's 23-for-69 (.333) with a homer, four doubles and four steals.
Shane Robinson, filling in for designated hitter Mike Trout in center field, said he "probably" makes the play if not for Tal's Hill.
"I might have hit the wall a little bit harder than I did," he added. "It's just kind of a weird play altogether. If they're doing what they're saying they're doing, moving the fence in [and removing the hill], it might have been a homer. You can look at it that way, too." More >
Shoe in: Shoemaker held the Astros to only one run through the first seven innings and was brought back out for the eighth, even though he had thrown 95 pitches and was getting ready to face the Astros a fourth time through the order. The 29-year-old promptly gave up three straight hits. He has a 2.09 ERA over his last seven starts, striking out 62 batters and issuing only four walks in 51 2/3 innings. But he has somehow won only one of those starts.
"Wins are great," Shoemaker said, "but we need to win. Team wins. It gets frustrating, but the next five days, it's another game. Just go out there and try to give our team a chance to win."More >
Rasmus, Correa give extra: When Kole Calhoun singled in the ninth inning to score Robinson and cut the lead to 3-2, Astros left fielder Colby Rasmus came up with a huge play when he threw to Altuve to get Escobar -- the tying run -- straying too far off second base for the second out. The call was confirmed after a review. In the eighth, Carlos Correa-- with a sore left foot -- beat out a would-be double-play ball to score Gonzalez from third with what turned out to be the winning run.
"If we had closed it up three up, three down [in the ninth], nobody would have talked about Correa running the ball out," Hinch said. "Instead it becomes a pivotal play based on how we tacked on a run and they couldn't catch us."
Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Escobar "got caught in between. From where Rasmus was playing, he had to go to his left to get to that ball in left-center. I think at first he made a turn, thought he had a chance, and Rasmus cut the distance of it, and he just got caught in no-man's land." More >
Missed opportunities: The Angels went 3-for-14 with runners in scoring position, one day after going 1-for-7, and once again missed several chances to pad their lead early. They had a runner in scoring position with none out on four separate occasions but only scored him one time. The Angels' offense was without Albert Pujols (left hamstring) for a second straight game. The unit has scored three runs or fewer four times in the last six games.
"McCullers got some strikeouts," Scioscia said. "He's a power pitcher, he got some strikeouts at some key times when we need to move the ball, and we couldn't do it. Once again, almost like last night, we had a lot of opportunities early in the game, just to give Shoe a little margin for error, and we couldn't do it."
"When I first got this job, one of the first things he said is he wants to play every day. I talked him into a couple of days off last season, and I'll talk him into a couple more later this season. He loves to play. It's baseball, sleep and his family." -- Hinch, on Altuve, who has played in 164 consecutive games since last June 22, the longest consecutive-game stretch in baseball
Escobar is the first Angels third baseman to notch at least 80 hits before the All-Star break since Chone Figgins in 2009. Escobar, who finished 2-for-5, has 84 hits with 17 games left in the first half.
Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons basically created a double play out of thin air to end the fifth inning. With runners on the corners, one out and the Angels up by a run, Simmons let a flair from George Springer bounce right in front of him, then stepped on second base and fired to first.
"Every time you do something weird, something crazy, it's risky," Simmons said. "But I felt confident with that particular ball to do it. That was perfectly hit. The only thing I should've done was give it to Johnny [Giavotella, the second baseman]. I think he would've turned it faster, because I wasn't as close [to the base] as I expected." More >
Both managers were unsuccessful on replay reviews. Scioscia challenged a call at first base in the first inning when Trout was called out, but the call was upheld. Hinch challenged a call at first in the fifth, arguing Springer had beat the relay to first on a double play, but he was also out. Losing their challenge seemingly hurt the Angels in the fourth, when Robinson appeared to beat a force play at second that would've loaded the bases with two outs.
Angels: The Angels return home Thursday to start a four-game series against the A's, with first pitch scheduled for 7:05 p.m. PT. Tim Lincecum will make his first start at Angel Stadium, opposite fellow right-hander Kendall Graveman. Lincecum's debut came against the A's, in Oakland, on Saturday, an afternoon in which he pitched six innings of one-run ball.
Astros: The Astros will take Thursday off before traveling to Kansas City to face the Royals in a three-game series beginning at 7:15 p.m. CT Friday. Left-hander Dallas Keuchel faces the Royals for the first time since pitching in relief against them in Game 5 of the ALDS. He's won once in his last 12 starts, but he is coming off strong outing against the Reds.

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