Halos Nip Astros, Survive McCullers

Simmons: About to be powdered
(c) Associated Press
The Astros have been a fount of offense and run production the past few weeks but, as so often happens, a day when the starting pitching steps up, the offense takes a nap resulting into a quiet evening and a pitchers duel. That's what it was like Saturday night in Anaheim as Lance McCullers spun a two-hit gem over seven innings and had only a no-decision to show for it.

Anaheim counterpart J.C. Ramirez gave up just one run over six innings while scattering eight hits as the ballgame went to the ninth in a 1-1 tie.

Houston scored early when Carlos Correa and Carlos Beltran swatted back-to-back doubles in the first to grab the lead but the Angels answered in the second whn ex-Astro Luis Valbuena singled and eventually scored on an infield chop.

The score stayed that way until the bottom of the ninth when Kole Calhoun came home on a similar play. He worked a five-pitch walk against reliever Chris Devenski. Calhoun moved to third on a single to left by Houston nemesis Albert Pujols. After Valbuena struck out, Andrelton Simmons hit a high chop to Correa at shortstop whose desperate throw home to catch Calhoun was late for a 2-1 Angels verdict.

After the winning run scored, teammates emptied onto the field pouring every form of liquid and powder available onto their infielder in what looked similar to a Hindu wedding. Honestly, I was scared for the young fellow. As these walk-off displays look more and more like mob scenes, one wonders when a celebration might turn to tragedy.

But the Angels did have a lot to celebrate. They snapped a three-game losing streak and fought back to the .500 mark on the season. The win brought them back to within 4-1/2 games of the first-place Astros. Yippee!

Want some irony? Friday's winning pitcher was Devenski. On Saturday, he was the losing pitcher. Friday's losing pitcher was former Astro Bud Norris. On Saturday, he was the winning pitcher.

McCullers had his best outing of the season on a night when AL MVP Mike Trout sat with hamstring tightness (Sunday's prognosis is day-to-day) yet could not notch a win. He did manage to slice half a run off his ERA to 3.40 down from 3.98.

Sunday's series finale will feature Mike Fiers (0-1) against Matt Shoemaker (1-1) who had lost to the Astros back in April. The first pitch is slated for 2:37 Central time.

Off the field, the Angels acquired pitcher Damien Magnifico from the Orioles and assigned him to AAA. It means nothing for this series but headline writers assuredly salivate at the prospect of getting this guy to the next level.

- Bob Hulsey