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Angels

Andrelton Simmons hits two home runs and Angels hold off Astros 8-7

Somewhere between six innings of being perfect and two innings of being blistered was Shohei Ohtani’s latest start.

The rookie’s performance Tuesday against the reigning World Series champions also fit neatly between so and so, Ohtani finishing with a no-decision in a game the Angels came back to win 8-7.

He pitched 51/3 innings against Houston, giving up four runs, striking out seven and walking five, before leaving everything in the hands of this team’s ever-wearying bullpen.

Those were the small-picture details. Taking a wider view, Ohtani threw 98 pitches and afterward reported no issues with the blister that knocked him out early in his previous start.

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For the Angels, that development was much more meaningful than beating the Astros in April, American League West implications and all.

Manager Mike Scioscia said the blister has turned into a callus, one for which the Angels are thankful, their season resting in part on Ohtani’s availability to display both of his two-way skills.

“I felt a lot better than last outing,” he said through his interpreter. “It pretty much had no bad effects on me tonight.”

Though he wasn’t perfect into the seventh like during his April 8 start against Oakland, Ohtani was highlight-quality impressive. He topped 100 mph more than once, his velocity continuing to climb with each appearance.

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After he departed — immediately after — the first batter reliever Jose Alvarez faced, Brian McCann, homered to give the Astros a 5-4 lead and ensure that Ohtani wouldn’t be getting a victory.

His teammates, however, were intent on deciding the game anyway, the Angels rebounding to score four runs in the seventh and take the lead for good on Andrelton Simmons’ second homer of the game, a three-run shot to left.

“You show some resilience when you put up more runs,” Simmons said. “It’s pretty big. They won the World Series last year. We beat ’em two times in a row. It’s just a confidence boost for us.”

Mike Trout hit his major-league high 10th homer of the year and Albert Pujols drove in the tying run during the winning rally with a single, his 2,993rd career hit.

Simmons followed with his own bit of history, the three-run homer giving him a career-high five RBIs for the night.

“I knew off the bat it had distance,” he said. “I just wasn’t sure if it was going to hook foul and ruin my night.”

From there, the Angels sealed the victory with just enough from their fume-gulping bullpen, Cam Bedrosian securing the final four outs for his first save.

Because he had pitched each of the previous three days, Keynan Middleton was unavailable.

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“That’s a big outing for Cam,” Scioscia said. “Hopefully, it gives him a little confidence moving forward.”

Third baseman Zack Cozart played the part of co-closer by snagging a George Springer smash heading toward left field to end a bases-loaded situation in the seventh and preserve the Angels’ one-run lead.

“That was a game-saver,” Scioscia said. “That definitely saved a couple runs for us for sure.”

All this was happening on a night when the hot dogs at Minute Maid Park were $1 and the players were apparently committed to lowering the relative cost of the baseball too, the Angels and Astros playing for three hours, 48 minutes.

The Angels needed six pitchers and 178 pitches and even used up each of their allotted six mound visits by the time this one was over.

They’re now 11-1 on the road, 11-0 since losing on opening day in Oakland. They won their 11th road game last year on May 27 in their 29th road game overall.

On Wednesday, the Angels will attempt to sweep the Astros. The only thing left standing in their way: Justin Verlander.

jmiller2929@yahoo.com

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