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Astros bullpen falters. Angels come back to overtake Astros, 7-6

Well, we won’t win 162 after all.

MLB: Houston Astros at Los Angeles Angels Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

After starting this series in Anaheim with the same mojo the team showed in Oakland, the Astros bats quieted down a bit, and the pitching and defense faltered badly at the end, allowing the Angels a 7-6 win in the first game of the season between these two AL West rivals.

The Astros started in Anaheim where they left off in Oakland, getting three straight singles by Jose Altuve, Yuli Gurriel, and Alex Bregman, Bregman’s scoring Altuve. After Yordan Alvarez grounded out, Carlos Correa hit an RBI single scoring Gurriel.

The third run in the first inning came with a little luck. With two outs Aledmys Diaz swung at strike three. However, the ball got by the catcher going all the way to the backstop. Running on a strike three not caught by the catcher, Diaz was safe at first, but more importantly, Alvarez scored from third.

The Astros added a run in the fourth when Jose Altuve singled home the speedy Myles Straw, who walked earlier in the inning. Unfortunately, the Astros left the bases loaded with only one out.

But the Angels struck back in the fourth, Mike Trout leading off with a homer deep to left field. It was the first hit against starter Luis Garcia, who left a change-up in Trout’s sweet spot.

But that was not the end. Anthony Rendon and Justin Upton followed with singles, and with one out Jose Iglesias singled home Rendon. After loading the bases with a walk to Kurt Suzuki, Garcia was lifted for Ryne Stanek, who struck out Dexter Fowler and got a line out to Aledmys Diaz playing left field.

The Angels added another run in the fifth against Brooks Raley when Upton singled home Jared Walsh, who led off with a single.

But the Astros got their lead back to two in the sixth inning when Martin Maldonado led off with a walk, who moved to second with two outs on an Alex Bregman single.

Maldonado ended up scoring on a Yordan Alvarez single. The Angels challenged the call at the plate, contending that Maldonado never touched home. Honestly, it sure looked from replay like the Angels had a point, but apparently, there was enough dust from Maldonado’s mountainous belly flop that the replay officials couldn’t overturn the ump's original call.

Bryan Abreu, despite command issues, held the Angels scoreless in the sixth and seventh innings, but the Angels put the game away with a big eighth.

Albert Pujols and Jose Iglesias led off the inning with singles against Joe Smith. Pinch hitter Shohei Ohtani followed with a hit by pitch, chasing Smith. Dexter Fowler immediately singled against new reliever Blake Taylor, scoring Pujols. A David Fletcher fielder's choice scored Iglesias to tie the game.

In what may have been the decisive play of the game, Jared Walsh hit a sharp grounder to first baseman Yuli Gurriel. Instead of taking the out at first, Gurriel made an errant throw home, allowing Ohtani to score, and keeping the number of outs at one. After intentionally walking Trout, Taylor surrendered a sac fly to Anthony Rendon, the seventh and final run of the game for the Angels.

Gurriel’s error was decisive because in the ninth Kyle Tucker hit a monster home run to center field, bringing the Astros to within one run. If Gurriel had taken the out instead of going home, the game would have gone into extra innings.

Except for Ryne Stanek, the Astros staff was shaky last night. Starter Luis Garcia allowed four hits and three walks in 3.1 innings with only one K and was fortunate to escape allowing only two runs. Brooks Raley allowed a run on two hits and a walk in one inning, and couldn’t locate any of his pitches low, missing badly on many of his pitches. Could his back be bothering him?

Bryan Abreu got two scoreless innings but had only one strikeout, and could not locate his breaking ball, a problem counted as one he must overcome to be successful long term.

Joe Smith faced three hitters, all of whom got on base and scored, and although Blake Taylor managed to get three outs despite an error and only one hit, he failed to hold any of his inherited runners. An early strikeout in his appearance could have won the game.

The Astros complete their road stand against the Angels at 3:07 CDT. Zack Greinke goes for the Astros.

Box score and videos HERE.