Angels close gap with Astros in wild-card race with win, 4-3
There was high drama in Minute Maid Park on Tuesday night, with the Angels and Houston Astros locked in a battle of arms and wits, a playoff spot on the line, and a crowd of 35,671 hanging on every pitch during the final two innings, which belonged on a high wire.
In the middle of it all, Angels closer Huston Street stayed calm and played baseball, striking out the powerful Evan Gattis with two on for the final out of a tense 4-3 victory that moved the Angels to within 2 1/2 games of the Astros for the second American League wild-card spot with 11 games left.
“Oh, it’s fun, man,” Street said after a 32-pitch, four-out save, his 39th. “This is what you’ve been thinking about since you were a little kid. Give me the ball with the game on the line. …
“This is good baseball for the fans, where we’re battling for a [playoff] spot. I think that’s the beauty of the second wild card. It keeps a lot more teams in it, and it makes the game a lot more fun.”
Especially when you hold on in dramatic fashion like the Angels, facing their first bullpen test without injured setup man Joe Smith, did Tuesday night.
They took a 3-0 lead in the first on Mike Trout’s two-run homer, his 40th of the season, and Albert Pujols’ solo shot, his 36th, but the Astros countered with homers by Marwin Gonzalez and Chris Carter in the second to make it 3-2.
The Angels tacked on a huge insurance run in the eighth when Chris Iannetta doubled, pinch-hitter David DeJesus hit an infield single and Kole Calhoun reached out for a Joe Thatcher breaking ball and poked a single to left for a 4-2 lead.
The Angels survived a harrowing bottom of the eighth that featured three relievers — Trevor Gott,
Jose Alvarez and Street — five Astros pinch-hitters and ended with Street, whose wild pitch allowed a run to score to make it 4-3, striking out Jake Marisnick with two on.
Street got two quick outs in the ninth, comebackers by Jose Altuve and George Springer, and then things got a little dicey.
Carlos Correa smashed a long drive to center field that hit the base of the wall, to the left of the 435-foot sign on the incline known as “Tal’s Hill,” which will be removed next season, with the fences brought in.
“Oh my God, that ball was killed,” Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said. “This might be the only park that ball is not out of. We caught a break there.”
Up stepped Jed Lowrie, whose three-run homer off Street on Sept. 13 in Anaheim keyed a five-run ninth that lifted the Astros to a 5-3 win. Scioscia ordered an intentional walk.
“I did want Lowrie, I really did,” Street said. “That’s what this game’s about, those battles. Sometimes you lose those battles, but you want that chance to come back. At the same time, I 110% agreed with Scioscia’s call.”
Street worked Gattis, who has 26 homers, to a 2-and-2 count, one of those strikes a line drive that hooked foul into the left-field corner, and struck him out with a nasty slider.
“That was a huge win,” Trout said. “You don’t want to go down 41/2 games with 11 to go. Streeter and the bullpen stepped up big time.”
Right-hander Nick Tropeano (2-2, 5.06 ERA) will oppose Houston right-hander Mike Fiers (7-10, 3.64 ERA) at Minute Maid Park on Wednesday at 11 a.m. PDT. TV: FS West; Radio: 830.
Follow Mike DiGiovanna on Twitter @MikeDiGiovanna
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