Valbuena gets key hit for Halos
(c) Houston Chronicle
Lance McCullers Jr. lasted only 3-1/3 innings in his return from the disabled list and the Astros bullpen was unable to hold an early lead in a 7-5 loss to the Angels Sunday night. With all of America watching on ESPN the Astros came up short in their final home game of the regular season, missing out on an opportunity to complete a 3-game sweep of their division rivals.
Making a bid to secure a spot in Houston's postseason rotation, McCullers was effective during his short stint on the mound. Lance threw 39 of his 63 pitches for strikes, striking out four and walking one while giving up four hits and two runs.
Anaheim's first run of the game came in the third inning. With one out and runners at first and third, Justin Upton hit a bouncer to Alex Bregman at third. Bregman probably had an easy out at home but decided to go for the double-play instead. Upton beat the relay to drive in his 107th run of the year.
The Astros staged a 2-out rally in the bottom of the third to take the lead. Tyler Skaggs hit George Springer with a pitch and Bregman followed with his 17th home run of the season. After a couple of walks, Evan Gattis extended the lead to 4-1 with a 2-run double to left-center.
Brandon Phillips led off the fourth with a homer and McCullers was pulled one batter later. Francis Martes got the final out of the inning but ran into serious control problems in the fifth. Martes eventually walked in a run and was replaced by James Hoyt who, unfortunately, walked in the tying run before getting the third out.
Martes wasn't the only Astros pitcher who had trouble completing multiple innings. Chris Devenski got the final out of the sixth but surrendered a 2-run double to old friend Luis Valbuena in the seventh.
George Springer got a run back with a solo blast off Cam Bedrosian to lead off the bottom of the seventh but the Astros still trailed 6-5.
Upton connected for his 35th round-tripper of the season in the eighth inning to extend the lead to 7-5 and that's the way it would end. Blake Parker pitched a perfect ninth to record his seventh save and snap a 6-game losing streak for the Angels.
The Astros head to Arlington for a 3-game set with the Rangers beginning Monday at 7:05 when Collin McHugh faces Andrew Cashner in the opener.
- Greg Thurston