The Astros took Game 1 of the four game series with the Angels behind Ronel Blanco facing the toughest hitting duo since Ruth and Gehrig.
Blanco couldn’t have had a more difficult challenge in his first MLB start. And it showed. In the first inning he did manage to escape unscathed, striking out two, although he walked Mike Trout and gave up a single to Shohei Ohtani.
In the second Blanco gave up a run on a Taylor Ward single. However, after walking Trout to load the bases with two outs, Blanco limited the damage by striking out Ohtani on three pitches, the final one a changeup that almost hit the ground.
The Astros scratched out a tying run in the second after a Kyle Tucker double, a stolen base, and a Jose Abreu sac fly. On the previous pitch Abreu just missed a home run to right field but his blast was five feet foul.
Blanco seemed to get stronger in the third and fourth innings, allowing only a hit in the third, and getting three up, three down in the fourth.
In the fifth inning Blanco got both Trout and Ohtani to pop out. However, Brandon Drury took Blanco deep beyond the Crawford Boxes.
But the bottom part of the Astros got the run back and then some. It started with a Corey Julks double and a run-scoring Yainier Diaz single. Jose Altuve singled Diaz to third, and after a Yordan Alvarez walk to load the bases, Alex Bregman hit in two with a single through the five hole.
In the sixth inning Blanco was removed with one out after giving up two singles. Hector Neris immediately allowed a single to load the bases. However, Taylor Ward struck out looking on a questionable call, and Trout popped out harmlessly to shortstop Jeremy Peña to end the threat and preserve the 4-2 Astros lead.
In Blanco’s first start his line is as follows: 5.1 IP, two runs, seven hits, three walks, and five strikeouts. It was a rocky start, but Blanco managed to get fairly deep, pitch out of trouble, and he left the game with a lead.
Bryan Abreu came in for Neris in the seventh and escaped damage after allowing two singles. And, wonders of wonders, Rafael Montero pitched a scoreless eighth, striking out two, and getting Trout to fly out to center to end the inning. Almost like old times.
The Astros added another run in the eighth with back to back doubles by Kyle Tucker and Jose Abreu off Aaron Loup. Abreu’s hit was yet another authoritative shot, this one off the wall in left-center. Abreu does indeed appear to be coming out of his slump.
Ryan Pressly came in for the save in the ninth. He got Ohtani to strike out for the first out, and after a double by Brandon Drury, got the next two batters to pop up.
It’s another improbable victory for the Astros with their motley crew of AAA replacement pitchers.