While the Astros offense slept, Justin Verlander again used flimsy support to craft a narrow victory in his second start since the deadline trade that sent him from Detroit. The righthander gave up a double to Brandon Phillips to start the game, watched Marwin Gonzalez pluck a couple of liners in left field then hunkered down for eight innings of shutdown baseball in a 1-0 whitewash in Anaheim Tuesday night that snuffed a four-game losing streak. Ken Giles gave up a hit to Phillips in the ninth but Phillips was gunned down on a great throw at second by George Springer as Giles notched his 30th save.
Verlander: Masterful over eight
(c) Associated Press
Verlander hit a batter and walked a man. That was all the Angels could put on base the entire game as Verlander showed again why aces make the big bucks, fanning nine over 112 pitches.
The Astros bunched three singles in the second for half of their six hits overall. Singles by Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman preceded an RBI single to center by Yuri Gurriel to drive in what became the game's only run. Starter Garrett Richards lasted five frames and then a quartet of Halo hurlers silenced the Astros, putting the pressure squarely on Verlander's shoulders to protect the narrow lead.
Houston remained 1-1/2 games behind Cleveland for the best record in the league as the Tribe won their 20th consecutive game. The Astros' magic number to win their first AL West crown is now five.
The two teams square off again Wednesday night at the Big A in another 9:07 Central insomnia cure. Mike Fiers (8-9) hopes to even his record as he faces lefthander Tyler Skaggs (1-5). The Astros have won seven of eleven this month with all the losses coming at Oakland in one ugly weekend series.
Pitcher Collin McHugh will be skipped in the rotation due to a torn fingernail suffered in his last start. With a laundry list of starting candidates, it doesn't hurt Houston that much to skip McHugh although the third playoff starter behind Verlander and Dallas Keuchel is still up for grabs. Brad Peacock was moved up to take McHugh's spot for Thursday night.