Angels’ road winning streak ends in Houston
When this series began, the Angels offense would have had to rally to be upgraded to sputtering.
Then they beat Houston on Monday but had to score only two runs to do it, with Tyler Skaggs and the bullpen providing a shutout.
On Tuesday, they reappeared offensively, scoring eight times, including a four-run seventh inning that represented a genuine uprising.
Justin Verlander stood before them Wednesday and any momentum from the night before evaporated by the time the 14th consecutive Angel returned to the dugout empty-handed.
Verlander finally stopped being perfect when Zack Cozart blooped a single to left-center field with two out in the fifth inning. But by that point, a 5-2 setback already was starting to appear on the horizon.
The loss ended a road winning streak at 11 games, which matched the franchise record. They’re 11-2 away from home, best in the majors.
Their ballpark has been less friendly, the Angels having arrived in Houston having lost five of six games in their most recent homestand.
The Astros began the series on a six-game winning streak in which they outscored opponents 47-6.
So, even though they failed to finish the sweep, the Angels return to Anaheim to face the New York Yankees in a much better place than when they left home.
“When you take two out of three from a division opponent, it’s still a good morale boost,” starter Nick Tropeano said. “We wanted to sweep. We want to win every game. But we’ll take this one and move on.”
After retiring the first 11 Astros he faced, Tropeano threw 10 consecutive balls with two out in the fourth inning before hitting Yuli Gurriel to load the bases.
His issues with command came without warning and, unfortunately for Tropeano and the Angels, without a quick solution.
“I think it was just a matter of me being too fine with my pitches,” Tropeano said. “My timing was a little off. My arm slot dropped a little bit. At that point, I was just battling.”
He started Alex Bregman with two balls before the Houston third baseman delivered the game’s first hit, a three-run double to put the Angels in a hole made all the more sizable by Verlander’s presence.
“He started off really strong and going after guys,” manager Mike Scioscia said of Tropeano. “In that group of hitters, he just lost it.”
Down 3-0 and on their way to falling behind 4-0 two innings later, the Angels were in dire trouble.
Over their last 44 games, dating to Sept. 12, they’ve faced Verlander three times and been dominated in each to various degrees.
The Angels have scored twice against the right-hander in 22 innings, batted .083 (six for 72) and struck out 24 times.
Before Albert Pujols’ solo home run — his 2,994th hit — in the seventh inning, the Angels hadn’t scored against Verlander since he was with the Detroit Tigers and long before he won a World Series and married Kate Upton.
“I think subconsciously you know you have to pitch well,” Scioscia said of the shadow in which Tropeano worked. “He’s not really battling Verlander. He’s batting the Houston lineup. I think you have to keep that perspective.”
Maybe so, but for one inning Wednesday, the Angels starter slipped. And that’s all it took.
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