Almost any baseball manager will tell you that the key to winning a division is to keep winning series. After taking six or eight series in April, the Astros' train continued Sunday in Anaheim with a 5-3 victory over the Angels and a 2-0 edge in series so far in May.
Altuve: Going, going, gone
(c) Associated Press
Mike Fiers allowed two solo homers to Yunel Escobar but Jose Altuve answered with a three-run shot off Matt Shoemaker to give Houston a lead they would never relinquish. It was just the fifth long ball of the year for Mighty Mouse after exploding for 24 blasts last year but timing, more than proficiency, is what matters here.
After Escobar took Fiers deep to lead off the Angels' first inning, Anaheim doubled their lead in the second with an RBI single from Martin Maldonado.
In the third, however, the Astros responded. Alex Bregman spanked a one-out double and George Springer drew a two-out walk. Josh Reddick sliced a single that got Bregman home and pushed Springer to third. That's when Altuve, the day after he rested for his 27th birthday, slugged the first pitch out beyond the 390-foot sign of the left-center fence to cap a four-run rally that instantly changed the game.
Evan Gattis added a solo homer into the bullpen to begin the seventh and end Shoemaker's afternoon. He had gone six innings, allowing five runs on five hits and three walks. Fiers, who won for the first time this season, lasted just five innings, giving up three runs on four hits and four walks. After watching Escobar's second homer, Fiers worked out of trouble in the fifth before leaving.
James Hoyt, Will Harris and Ken Giles finished up with four innings of shutout relief. Giles earned his eighth save.
After a day off, the Astros lock horns with an old National League foe, the Atlanta Braves, for a brief two-game series. Charlie Morton (3-2) will get the start for Houston while the soon-to-be 44-year-old Bartolo Colon is scheduled to pitch for Atlanta. The opener will be at 7:10 Central on Tuesday and perhaps Chris Burke can be there to throw out the first pitch. These are not your parents' Braves with an 11-18 record to begin the year so don't be worried about front-running Atlanta fans showing up and ruining your night.