A few days ago, the Houston Astros’ offense appeared as frozen and stiff as the crisp Minnesota air. A migration South of the Border seems to have reinvigorated the Astros’ bats, which provided the muscle in a 10-4 victory over the Los Angeles Angels Sunday afternoon and completed a convincing sweep of the two-game Mexico Series.
On Saturday, the Astros slugged five homers, 10 extra-base hits, and posted 14 runs. The Astros offense treated Angels’ pitchers like piñatas again on Cinco de Mayo, mashing three more longballs and four doubles to produce another double-digit scoring output.
The afternoon didn’t start as good as it ended Sunday, however. David Fletcher launched a moonshot leadoff homer for the Angels that cleared the seats in leftfield. The blast was initially ruled a foul ball, but the call was overturned by replay review and the Angels grabbed a 1-0 lead one batter into Justin Verlander’s night.
Carlos Correa responded in the second inning with a two-run shot to right on a two-strike count to give the Astros a 2-1 lead.
The home run was Correa’s seventh of the season and extended his hitting streak to a career-high 15 games.
Josh Reddick and Yuli Gurriel each followed with sharp singles and it looked like a big crooked number awaited the Astros. Unfortunately, Robinson Chirinos grounded into a double play and the Astros were unable to add to their lead.
Jonathan Lucroy – who entered with just one hit in 10 previous at-bats against Verlander – reclaimed the advantage for the Angels with a two-run shot of his own in the bottom half of the inning. The bomb ended Verlander’s string of four straight starts allowing just one run on a solo homer.
But the Astros ace took it all in stride.
Verlander: “I feel I handled it about as good as I could. I think the writing was on the wall. This place is double the elevation of Chase Field, & we’re not using a humidor, & the balls are already juiced & I’m a 75 % fly ball pitcher. I think that lines up for a tough day.” pic.twitter.com/2KBYJACtCb— Alyson Footer (@alysonfooter) May 5, 2019
In fact, Verlander made a big play himself following Lucroy’s homer. With runners on second and third and only one out, Verlander pounced on a grounder back to the mound to catch Fletcher in a rundown and keep the Angels’ lead at 3-2.
Verlander then followed with a strikeout of Astros’ nemesis Albert Pujols to work out of the jam.
The turning point of the game came shortly thereafter.
With one out in the fifth inning, Matt Harvey hit Chirinos with a pitch to end his string of nine straight Astros retired. George Springer singled up the middle with two outs and Jose Altuve followed with a walk to load the bases for clutch-hitter extraordinaire Alex Bregman.
Surprisingly, Angels’ manager Brad Ausmus summoned Cam Bedrosian in relief of Harvey to face Bregman. Sure, Harvey wasn’t dominant by any means and Bregman was 1-11 lifetime against Bedrosian. But Harvey wasn’t far removed from setting down the Astros’ entire lineup in order and certainly wasn’t taxed by his pitch count.
Matt Harvey just got pulled after 57 pitches with a lead in the middle of an inning.— Chandler Rome (@Chandler_Rome) May 5, 2019
Suffice it to say, the move backfired for Ausmus.
Bregman smashed a 2-0 pitch deep to straightaway centerfield to give the Astros an insurmountable 6-3 lead.
Speaking of Bregman, he’s muy caliente. The grand slam was Bregman’s third homer in two games of the Mexico Series and his fifth homer in as many games.
Five of Alex Bregman's six hits on this road trip are home runs.— Chandler Rome (@Chandler_Rome) May 5, 2019
The Astros stud third baseman now has nine home runs (and two grand slams) on the year and is well ahead of the MVP-caliber standard he set for himself a season ago.
Alex Bregman’s grand slam off Cam Bedrosian was his ninth home run of the season. He didn’t hit his ninth homer last year until June 15th.— Jake Kaplan (@jakemkaplan) May 5, 2019
Following his escape of the third-inning jam, Verlander was vintage.
He retired 13 straight Angels from the third through sixth innings, including this sequence that resulted in a swinging strikeout of Mike Trout.
Justin Verlander K'ing Trout with 97mph, 97mph & 98mph Fastballs. pic.twitter.com/22bjMHxJ0O— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 5, 2019
Lucroy smoked his second homer of the game to finally solve Verlander for the Angels in the bottom of the seventh and brought his team within two, 6-4. The blast ended Verlander’s outing at 6 1⁄3 innings pitched with four runs allowed (all coming from homers) on five hits with seven strikeouts and 100 pitches.
Justin Verlander allowed five hits and four runs across 6.1 innings today in Monterrey. He struck out seven and allowed three home runs. His ERA is 2.86— Chandler Rome (@Chandler_Rome) May 5, 2019
Ryan Pressly relieved Verlander (5-1, 2.86) and recorded the next two outs to end the inning.
Houston native Justin Anderson entered for the Angels in eighth. Doubles by Reddick and Chirinos helped the Astros regain a three-run lead, 7-4.
Pressly tossed another scoreless inning in the eighth to set a franchise record for consecutive scoreless innings (33.0). He eclipsed the previous mark of 32 1⁄3 set by The Wizard, Roy Oswalt.
The Astros played add-on in the ninth to put things out of reach.
Altuve ripped an RBI double into the gap in left centerfield to score Springer. Two batters later, Michael Brantley annihilated an offering from Hansel Robles over the bullpen in rightfield for a 10-4 Astros’ lead. The homer was Brantley’s seventh of the year.
Roberto Osuna retired the Angels in order in the ninth to finish off the sweep in his native country.
Bregman has logged back-to-back four-RBI games, a feat not often accomplished in Astros’ history.
Alex Bregman now has 3 career grand slams, 2 this season.— Steve Grande (@AstrosGrande) May 5, 2019
He's got 8 RBI in this 2-game series, with back-to-back 4-RBI games.
Bregman is the 12th player in #Astros history to post consecutive 4+ RBI games. Evan Gattis last did so in 2018.
Although Altuve is striking out in a career-worst 15.3% of plate appearances, he’s drawing walks in 11.3% of them – a career-best. Altuve’s BB/K rate (0.73) is still above his career-average and within range of his 2017-18 levels (0.69 and 0.70, respectively).
The Astros four grand slams is tops in the Majors so far this season.
Bedrosian hasn’t found much success against the Astros in recent seasons. Entering Sunday, he had a 5.93 ERA in 14 games versus Houston since 2017.
Matt Harvey, who allowed five runs and struck out only one, fell to 1-3 on the season and has a 6.94 ERA in six starts (34 1⁄3 IP).
Box score and videos here.
The Astros will begin a seven-game homestand when they host the Kansas City Royals Monday night 7:10 p.m. (CT). Gerrit Cole (2-4, 3.95) and Jakob Junis (3-2, 5.12) are the scheduled starters. Each pitcher is coming off a win in his last outing.