ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) – The Houston Astros gave up three prospects for Justin Verlander because they wanted a stopper for their World Series chase. After just two starts, the star right-hander is already giving them exactly what they need while they tune up for October.
Verlander pitched eight innings of one-hit ball, and the Astros snapped their four-game skid with a 1-0 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday night.
Verlander (12-8) struck out nine in another overpowering performance for his new team. He held the Angels without a hit after Brandon Phillips’ leadoff double in the first, allowing only Mike Trout to reach base on a walk and a hit by pitch.
“It feels good,” Verlander said. “On a night when we really needed it after a tough series and an off day to reset, those are the kind of things that make you feel really good. I got in a rhythm, was able to have a couple of quick innings and just go from there.”
Verlander pitched six innings of one-run ball in Seattle during his Houston debut last week. The Astros got swept in a four-game series at Oakland last weekend, but the six-time All-Star put them right back on course.
“He loves the moment,” Houston manager A.J. Hinch said. “He was in complete control. Coming off the day off, it doesn’t surprise me that he was going to set the tone.”
Yuli Gurriel’s second-inning single drove in the only run for the Astros (87-57), who lowered their magic number for clinching the AL West title to five by blanking the second-place Angels (73-71).
Los Angeles has lost four of five to fall two games behind Minnesota (75-69) for the second AL wild card.
Ken Giles gave up another double to Phillips in the ninth, but the Angels’ new infielder slipped off the base after his slide and was tagged out by shortstop Carlos Correa.
Phillips and manager Mike Scioscia vehemently argued that Correa had nudged Phillips off the bag, to no avail.
“I’m not mad about it, because I would have done the same thing,” said Phillips, the veteran second baseman. “I fell for my own trick. He just did a smart play, and that changed the whole game.”
Giles then got Trout on a grounder to complete his 30th save in 34 chances.
Justin Upton went 0 for 3 and Phillips was 2 for 4 in their home debuts for the Angels, who acquired both veterans in trades right before the start of their just-completed road trip.
“It was great to play at home for the first time with these guys,” said Phillips, who already found a house near the beach to enjoy September with his family.
Garrett Richards (0-1) pitched five innings of four-hit ball in his second start back from a five-month injury absence for the Angels.
The right-hander yielded one run on three singles in the second, but faced no other trouble while striking out four. His first appearance at the Big A since April 25, 2016, was another solid step on his road back from arm injuries that have derailed his past two seasons.
“He spent the pitches that he was allotted,” Scioscia said. “We were thrilled he could get us through five innings.”
Richards missed 135 games with a biceps strain after making one start in April. He made only six starts in 2016 before tearing a ligament in his right elbow, but he avoided Tommy John surgery with rehabilitation – only to experience more arm woes this season.
Astros: Lance McCullers Jr. was scratched from his scheduled start Wednesday after he reported arm fatigue during pregame throwing. McCullers was supposed to make his second start back from a monthlong absence due to a back injury.
Angels: LHP Andrew Heaney will miss at least one start with an “impingement” in his shoulder, Scioscia said. Heaney missed most of the past two seasons recovering from Tommy John surgery, returning to the rotation five starts ago.
Astros: Mike Fiers (8-9, 4.87 ERA) will get the spot start to fill in for McCullers. Fiers has made 27 starts this season, but lost his spot in the rotation last week with Verlander’s arrival and the return of McCullers from the disabled list.
Angels: Tyler Skaggs (1-5, 4.86) returned from the disabled list last month and has gone 0-4 with a 5.61 ERA. He hasn’t won since April 22, but the Angels must hope he gets it going to help a depleted rotation.
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