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Angels stun Astros in seesaw battle, 10-9

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Well, this one stings.

MLB: Game One-Houston Astros at Los Angeles Angels Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

As the Houston Astros prepped for yet another doubleheader on Saturday afternoon, the heat was in full force in Anaheim. Temperatures are scorching throughout all of Southern California throughout this Labor Day weekend and Angel Stadium of Anaheim was no exception, as it was 109 degrees at first pitch of game one, setting a ballpark record for game time temperature. With first-place Oakland winning earlier in the day, the Astros were hoping for a pair of victories to climb within 1.5 games of the top spot in the AL West. The opener was a laborious one, as both teams dug deeper into their bullpens than they would have preferred to. When all was said and done, each relief core took multiple tumbles. Houston rallied to take the lead with three runs in the top of the seventh inning (final scheduled frame in doubleheader contests), but the Angels came back with a trifecta of their own, sending the Astros to a deflating 10-9 defeat.

Approximately 18 hours after Shohei Ohtani sunk the nail in the coffin of the Astros with a game-winning hit in the series opener, he put his team on the board first in the twinbill with an RBI single. The knock plated Mike Trout, who doubled one batter prior. Houston had a quick answer, as Kyle Tucker launched his seventh home run of the season into the right-field seats, tying the game in the top of the second. Tucker has six home runs and 25 RBI since Aug. 16. More to come from his bat very soon.

In the third inning, Astros hitters did a phenomenal job working the count of Halos starter Griffin Canning, forcing him to throw 35 pitches while putting a trio of runs on the board to go in front 4-1. A single by Jack Mayfield and a pair of walks loaded the bases with two outs for Yuli Gurriel, who guided a full-count pitch up the middle for a two-run single to give his team a 3-1 advantage. Tucker then stood back in and delivered an infield hit, beating the jump throw from shortstop Andrelton Simmons. Canning had thrown six frames of one-run ball against Houston on Aug. 1, but the visitors were able to knock him out after four innings and 77 pitches this time around.

Trout, who will go down as one of the best to ever play the game, reached two major milestones with one swing of the bat in the bottom of the third. He crushed a two-run homer to right-center for not only his 300th career long ball, but to vault him past Tim Salmon as the Angels all-time home run leader. Trout also stands atop MLB’s leaderboard in dingers for this season with 15.

Astros starting pitcher Brandon Bielak had a second straight tough outing against the Halos, giving up four runs and seven hits (five for extra bases) in 3.2 frames of work. He previously surrendered four earned runs and did not get out of the first inning in the nightcap of a doubleheader on Aug. 25 at Minute Maid Park.

In the fourth, Jo Adell was not-so-nice to Bielak’s 69th pitch, belting it the other way over the right-field wall to tie the contest at 4. Bielak was replaced with two outs by Chris Devenski, who entered a game for the first time since July 26 and was placed on the injured list with elbow soreness shortly thereafter.

The see-saw battle continued in the fifth inning with each team scoring twice. George Springer tripled to lead off for Houston and immediately scored on a base hit by Myles Straw. Three batters later, Tucker greeted southpaw reliever Jose Quijada with another single, making it 6-4. The lead was short-lived however, as Devenski allowed Trout’s third extra-base hit of the game (another double) before Justin Upton belted a no-doubt two-run shot to left to tie it at 6.

Dusty Baker called on Cy Sneed for the sixth inning, and the right-hander issued a one-out walk. Luis Rengifo followed with a single and Andrelton Simmons sliced a double down the right-field line, plating Anthony Bemboom for a 7-6 Angels lead. Rengifo was thrown out at home on the play as Carlos Correa executed a textbook relay throw to nab him.

The play at the plate proved to be crucial, because it took the Angels seven pitches to blow their MLB-leading 11th save of the season. Straw hustled his way to a double to start the seventh and immediately scored on a clean single to right off the bat of Michael Brantley.

Two outs later, Correa hit a ground-rule double before Martin Maldonado served a two-run single to right-center to again give the Astros the upper hand.

Knowing these two teams, there was no way the bottom of the seventh would be drama free. Blake Taylor walked Trout and Ohtani to begin the inning, forcing in Enoli Paredes as Houston’s fifth hurler of the afternoon. Upton greeted him by scorching an RBI double off the right-center field wall, narrowly missing a walk-off homer. After Paredes recorded an out, Adell punched a ball inside the first-base bag, plating Ohtani and Upton and giving the Angels an improbable victory.

Tucker led the way with a trifecta of hits and runs batted in, raising his season average to .281 after it was a paltry .193 on Aug. 18.

Texans will have to stay up late to catch the nightcap, which is expected to get underway around 9:50 p.m. CT. Jose Urquidy, last year’s hero in Game 4 of the World Series, will make his season debut after recovering from COVID-19. The Angels have not announced a starter.