After going a week without leading, the Angels pulled so far ahead Sunday that Houston used its third baseman to pitch.
One 14-5 victory won’t erase the 10-game deficit the Angels are still facing in the American League wild-card race.
But the revival at least proved the team isn’t as done as it has looked at times lately, particularly on offense.
“It’s only for today,” winning pitcher Andrew Heaney said. “We’ve got to be able to carry that over moving forward. We gotta do it a lot more often. It’s time to get going.”
In the first two games of the series, the Angels had nine hits in 61 at-bats, failed 10 of the 11 times they batted with runners in scoring position and never had the lead.
Then they fell behind 1-0 in the second inning Sunday before the offense bolted awake.
In the bottom of the inning, a run-scoring double by Ian Kinsler and a run-scoring single by Luis Valbuena made it 2-1, giving the Angels their first lead since beating the Dodgers on July 14, a stretch that include the All-Star break.
They’d also open a gap large enough that Houston finished with J.D. Davis, who began the game at third base, on the mound, the former two-way player at Cal State Fullerton working the eighth inning. Davis pitched in two games for the Astros last season.
“We scored a lot of runs in a short period of time,” said Upton, whose home run traveled an estimated 443 feet. “It was nice.”
The upraising made the late afternoon a comfortable one for Heaney (6-6), even as the sun and heat refused to relent. His six solid innings put the Angels in position to avoid being swept, his teammates doing the rest with their bats.
In his last eight starts at home, Heaney is 6-1 with a 1.33 earned-run average. He has been so good at Angel Stadium during the stint that, with one run given up Sunday, his ERA actually went up.
Such sweeping success makes it sound all the more odd that Heaney has not won a game away from home since Sept. 2, 2015, in Oakland, 14 road starts ago.
Since then, he has had elbow ligament-replacement surgery, made only six starts combined in consecutive seasons and has rebounded to put together his finest season.
Heaney has matched his single-season mark in victories. His 18 starts are a season high and his 108 1/3 innings represent his highest total in the big leagues.
“I just wanna keep doing what I’m doing,” Heaney said. “I’m working hard. I’m doing the right things. Hopefully, that all pays off.”