ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) – The Houston Astros made themselves at home in California this season, posting a record of 18-5.
After punctuating that success with their seventh win in nine games at Angel Stadium, the Astros are ready to take the momentum back home for a critical three-game series against second-place Oakland.
Framber Valdez gave up one run over five innings in his first career start, Carlos Correa drove in two runs and the Astros beat the Los Angeles Angels 3-1 on Sunday for their fifth straight win.
“I don’t think we need a lot of spark,” Astros manager AJ Hinch said. “The spark is really trying to finish this off and win the division. Clearly we need to beat Oakland this week. It’s not going to be decided this week. We’ll be ready to play and we’re excited to play those guys, but we have a number of games moving forward that if we continue to play this kind of baseball, I don’t care who we play, we’re going to win.”
The Astros went 6-3 during their West Coast road trip and improved to 47-21 away from home. Houston also matched their 1998 counterparts for the best record in franchise history through 130 games at 80-50.
Valdez (2-0) struck out three while allowing two hits and three walks in his first career start, making his case for the spot in Houston’s rotation left vacant because of Lance McCullers Jr.’s forearm injury.
Correa had two RBIs on a line-drive single to centerfield with the bases loaded in the third inning that put the Astros in front 2-0. Marwin Gonzalez made it 3-0 with a base hit through the gap at first to score Alex Bregman.
Jefry Marte scored on a ground out by Kole Calhoun to cut the lead to 3-1 in the fifth. It was the first earned run allowed by Valdez in 9 1/3 innings this week after making his major league debut at Seattle on Tuesday, and the 24-year-old left-hander got David Fletcher to ground out and end the inning.
Roberto Osuna earned his second save with the Astros and 11th of the season, striking out pinch hitter Shohei Ohtani to end the game after hitting Francisco Arcia with a two-out pitch.
“The road trip got progressively better all the way around,” Hinch said. “Our bats got better. I think our pitching synced up a little bit. The back of our bullpen was very good, and that’s more of the complete team that we’re used to.”
Felix Pena (1-4) gave up three runs on three hits and two walks in six innings, while striking out five.
“I thought Felix made some adjustments,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of Pena, who has yet to win in seven home starts. “Got his pitch count up there, maintained his stuff and gave us a chance to win, so I thought Felix did a good job.”
Jose Altuve went 1 for 4 and is batting .350 (7 for 20) with three RBIs in five games following his first-ever trip to the disabled list because of a knee injury. He played despite being hit by a pitch Saturday, the second time he was struck on the left elbow this week.
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Albert Pujols got his 3,082th career hit and passed Cap Anson for sole possession of 23rd place all-time. The single in the sixth inning broke an 0-for-17 slump by Pujols.
Angels slugger Mike Trout went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts and did not reach base for the first time in 13 games. Hinch praised his pitchers for staying out of trouble against Trout, which allowed them to attack up high in the strike zone with two strikes.
“You go down in the zone to him, you know you’re asking for it,” Hinch said. “We crowded him one at-bat. We did something different to him almost every at-bat to get to the put-away pitch.”
Astros: OF George Springer (quadriceps) will return to the starting lineup Monday against Oakland, Hinch said. . Hinch said McCullers is unlikely to return to the starting rotation this season. Hinch said McCullers’ rehabilitation program will slow down because of a “continued lack of progress,” and he is not expected to throw off the mound until September.
Angels: Ohtani, who has not pitched since June 6 because of an elbow injury, will throw a simulated game Monday.
Astros: RHP Gerrit Cole (11-5, 2.73 ERA) will take a 2-0 record with a 2.92 ERA in four starts against Oakland this season into Monday’s opener of a three-game series against the Athletics.
Angels: RHP Odrisamer Despaigne (2-2, 6.35), who has lost both starts after being traded from Miami to Los Angeles on Aug. 14, will get the nod against Colorado on Monday.