ANAHEIM — The Astros have spent most of the year pacing the Majors in home runs and flexed their muscle in the second of a three-game series at Angel Stadium on Tuesday night, going deep three times to chase C.J. Wilson in the fourth inning and pound their division rivals by a 13-3 score.
With that, the Astros moved to four games up on the Rangers and 5 1/2 up on the Angels in the American League West.
Young shortstop Carlos Correa, who finished a triple shy of the cycle, gave the Astros an early four-run lead with a two-out, three-run shot in the second. Luis Valbuena added a solo homer in the fourth and a two-run shot in the fifth, giving him 19 on the year and putting his batting average at .195 after a three-hit game.
“I thought our at-bats were pretty good,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “I thought we made Wilson throw quality strikes to us. We took some borderline pitches that went in our favor that got him in trouble. Obviously, the home runs were nice. I thought our baserunning was good. We just had a really good offensive approach from the beginning. Obviously, Correa’s big home run sort of set the tone and we capitalized on a lot of opportunities tonight, which was good to see.”
Wilson had given up just one run in 15 innings over his last two starts, but gave up seven runs on eight hits and a couple of walks in 3 1/3 innings. Since the start of 2014, the veteran left-hander has been charged with 28 earned runs in 33 1/3 innings against the Astros.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Crush City: The Astros’ three homers pushed their Major League-leading total to 107. The Astros have homered in 10 consecutive games, which is their longest since a 12-game streak from July 28-Aug. 10, 2007. They have hit multiple homers in nine of those 10 games.
“It’s good because we have a couple of guys that are strong guys and every time they hit it the ball goes, but you have to focus on what you want to do at home plate and Carlos had a good plan,” Valbuena said.
Mistake pitch: It was only a 1-0 game in the second, with two on and two outs. Then Wilson hung a 3-2 slider to Correa and watched it sail way over the left-field fence. Opponents came in slugging just .231 against Wilson’s slider this season, the lowest mark of all his pitches. Wilson faced just 10 more batters after that, departing with his shortest outing of the season.
“If somebody is pitching and they throw me the same pitch that I threw him, I’m probably going to get a hit on it,” Wilson said. “It’s not a good pitch. It just didn’t do anything. It’s supposed to be breaking down and it just kind of spun.”
McHugh back in a groove: Collin McHugh gave the Astros his second quality start in a row, working a season-high eight innings and allowing nine hits and two runs to win his second consecutive start. The only walk he allowed was intentional to Albert Pujols and it helped him escape a jam in the first.He’s allowed two or fewer walks in 14 of his 15 starts this year, and he is 15-3 with a 3.55 ERA in his last 25 starts (since last year).
“Obviously, we want to see him be more aggressive and he’s been more aggressive,” Hinch said. “He pitched with a lead and he should come out of this with a lot of confidence having gone eight innings, and I think his highest pitch total of the season. We maintain a pretty good balance around here with our guys and our guys respond favorably.”
Tailor-made: With runners on second and third and one out in the very first inning, the Astros elected to intentionally walk the red-hot Pujols (.352 batting average, 15 homers and four strikeouts over his previous 24 games) to face David Freese, who promptly grounded into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play. The veteran third baseman leads the Angels in plate appearances with runners in scoring position, a byproduct of frequently batting behind Pujols, and has hit just .226 in those situations.
“He’s not a secret anymore.” — Hinch, on Correa
“You can see the physical tools, no doubt. Reminds me a lot of Mike [Trout], the way he carries himself at a young age.” — Angels manager Mike Scioscia, on Correa
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Fourteen of Valbuena’s 19 home runs have been solo shots.
Replay allowed Angels shortstop Erick Aybar to complete a slick, highlight-reel play to start the third, overturning an initial safe call on Evan Gattis‘ grounder up the middle. Aybar ranged way to his left, twirled and made a strong throw to first in midair to eventually record the out. The Angels are now 11-for-20 in challenges this season.
Astros: The Astros wrap up their eight-game road trip by sending rookie right-hander Lance McCullers Jr. to the mound in the series finale against the Angels at 2:35 p.m. CT Wednesday. McCullers (3-2, 2.45 ERA) is making his eighth career start and has 46 strikeouts, which is the most by an Astros pitcher through his first seven career games.
Angels: Matt Shoemaker (4-5, 5.20 ERA) opposes McCullers, five days after a rough start against the A’s. Shoemaker completed only four innings Thursday, giving up five runs on eight hits (two of them homers) in a no-decision. The 28-year-old right-hander has an 8.76 ERA in 12 1/3 career innings against the Astros.
Via- Alden Gonzalez and Brian McTaggart / MLB.com