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Angels avoid the sweep with 3-1 victory over Astros

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David Fletcher is congratulated after bringing home a run against the Astros with a groundout Sunday.
David Fletcher is congratulated after bringing home a run against the Astros with a groundout Sunday.
(Alex Gallardo/Associated Press)

Live updates from the Angels’ series against the Houston Astros.

Follow our live updates throughout the Angels’ three-game home series against the Houston Astros. You can expect news, notes and analysis in real time before, during and after the game.

Powered by Reid Detmers, Angels beat Astros 3-1

As Reid Detmers walked off the mound after his sixth inning of pitching on Sunday afternoon, he wiped his face with his jersey once, then twice. He looked up the third-base line, in the direction of the bullpen, where Austin Warren was starting to get loose.

It would not have been hard to argue that Detmers, sitting at 87 pitches, was entitled to a seventh inning of work in the Angels’ eventual 3-1 win against the Astros. But at this point, everyone involved had seen enough to walk away from the afternoon with encouragement about the young left-hander.

In his first two outings, against the Athletics and Dodgers, respectively, Detmers went through ups and downs, not getting past the fifth inning in either game and giving up a total of 11 runs. Facing Houston, a team sitting in first place with championship aspirations, Detmers was smooth and steady, making a lone mistake all game.

“I was just more confident,” Detmers said. “I was landing more of my offspeed stuff for strikes and just getting good contact outs.”

That one error — a third-inning slider to Michael Brantley that hung, then ended up in the right field seats — does not belie the rest of an outing in which Detmers’ offspeed pitching vexed an Astros lineup that is one of the best in baseball.

“It’s gonna keep getting better and it’s all about command of his offspeed stuff,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said before the game. “Of course his fastball, but his offspeed stuff where they have to honor it because it’s a strike call, or a called strike on purpose.”

On a day when Detmers did end up putting it all together, that assessment proved to be prescient.

He threw his curveball 32 times, more than any other pitch, inducing three whiffs and 10 called strikes. His slider, thrown 19 times, got four called strikes — two of them for strike three.

Detmers struck out Carlos Correa on a curveball in the first, then got Jake Meyers swinging on the same pitch in the second. He put away Almedys Diaz and Meyers again on a curveball and a slider in the third, then got Brantley and Yordan Alvarez looking on sliders in the fifth and sixth innings, respectively. On a day that ended with six strikeouts for Detmers, none came on his fastball, and after six innings, he left having given up just three hits and one run.

“I was able to land it for strikes and throw it in the dirt when I needed to,” Detmers said of his curveball. “And I was using it ahead in the count and behind in the count. It felt good.”

As the outing went on, Maddon saw Detmers getting better, getting more extension and more break on his offspeed pitches. He pointed towards the fourth inning as a line of demarcation, and indeed, Detmers retired nine of the last 10 batters he faced after giving up a single to Alvarez to open the fourth.

“Early on I was pulling off really hard and I just wasn’t able to finish a couple of my pitches,” Detmers said. “Later on in the game I was getting a little bit more extension, so I was able to finish those pitches off, getting those easy outs, getting swing and misses, that was pretty much it.”

The other details of Sunday seem forgettable by virtue of the Angels’ record, which sits at 59-60 after the win. But that Detmers’ breakthrough outing ultimately allowed them to piece together a comeback victory against one of the best teams in the American League will make it all the more sweeter.

After the Astros took their early lead in the third, the Angels stayed quiet until the fifth. Jack Mayfield sparked a rally with a base hit followed by a nice bit of baserunning, as he went from first to third on a Shohei Ohtani single. That set him up to score on a groundout by David Fletcher.

They took the lead in a similar manner — Phil Gosselin doubled in the sixth, moved to third on a bunt single, then scored on a groundout by Jo Adell. The Angels added another run in the ninth on a solo home run from Gosselin. That, plus a bullpen effort from Austin Warren, Jose Quintana and Raisel Iglesias — featuring a ninth inning in which Iglesias put the tying run on second base before striking out Jose Altuve to end the game — proved enough to get Detmers his first career win.

“I know how good he’s gonna be,” Maddon said before the game. “He hasn’t demonstrated that here yet.”

Now, he has.

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Live updates: Angels beat Astros 3-1

Top 3: Reid Detmers worked out of trouble in the second inning, but suffered his first blemish in the third with a Michael Brantley solo home run. Brantley took a 2-0 slider 424 feet into the right field seats with a 107.6 mph exit velocity, per Statcast.

End 5: The Angels knotted things up at one, finally getting to Lance McCullers after Jack Mayfield and Shohei Ohtani hit two straight singles with one out. Mayfield went first to third on Ohtani’s base hit, setting him up to score on an infield ground ball by David Fletcher.

End 6: The Angels took the lead after a Jo Adell fielder’s choice scored Phil Gosselin. The third baseman had led off the inning with the double, moving to third on a drag bunt by Brandon Marsh that ended in a base hit. That allowed Gosselin to score on the ground ball by Adell.

End 8: Phil Gosselin gave the Angels a much-needed insurance run with a solo homer off Cristian Javier. Raisel Iglesias, who came in for the last out of the 8th, will work the ninth.

Final, Angels win 3-1: The Angels prevented a sweep and moved a game under .500, but the story today was Reid Detmers. Against one of the best teams in baseball, Detmers threw six innings of one-run ball and struck out six with just three hits. He looked composed and gave the Angels a chance to win on a day where their offense wasn’t at its best. The ninth inning featured the go-ahead run coming up with two outs, but Iglesias struck Jose Altuve out to end the game.

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Angels designate Adam Eaton for assignment, promote pitcher James Hoyt

The Angels will designate veteran outfielder Adam Eaton for assignment, bringing up right-handed pitcher James Hoyt in a corresponding roster move, the team announced ahead of Sunday’s game.

Eaton, who signed with the Angels in mid-July after being released by the White Sox, played 25 games with the team, slashing .200/.232/.277. Angels manager Joe Maddon said the move had to do with the team needing more pitching and the recent emergence of Brandon Marsh and Jo Adell in the outfield.

“Adam was fabulous,” Maddon said. “Not even good, he was fabulous. Really in a short period of time, really gotten to like this guy a lot. It’s just that we have plenty of outfielders right now.”

Marsh and Adell, who have both been called up within the last month, are two of the top prospects in the organization. Marsh has largely struggled, hitting .195 over 27 games, whereas Adell has had more success since his call-up, hitting .268 over 11 games.

James Hoyt, the pitcher being called up, has bounced around the majors since his 2016 debut. In just over 100 career innings, he has a 3.82 ERA. But in seven appearances with the Angels this year, he’s largely struggled, giving up six home runs with a 5.40 ERA.

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Shohei Ohtani hits 39th home run, but Astros blow out Angels 8-2

The Astros scored eight straight runs to win Saturday over the Angels. (AP Photo/John McCoy)
(ASSOCIATED PRESS)

The Angels led by two runs at the end of the first inning on Saturday.

After that, it was all downhill the rest of the way.

The team lost 8-2 against the Houston Astros, dropping their record to 58-60 on the season and forcing them to try and avoid a sweep in Sunday’s series finale.

Here are three observations from Saturday’s game.

Ohtani’s leadoff homer

Shohei Ohtani continued his recent hot streak as the Angels’ leadoff hitter, opening Saturday’s game with a solo blast in the bottom of the first for his MLB-leading 39th home run of the year.

The 393-foot shot helped Ohtani tie a club record for most home runs in a season by a left-handed hitter, matching Reggie Jackson’s 39 home runs in 1982.

He’s also now within eight home runs of the Angels overall single-season club record of 47, set by Troy Glaus in 2000.

The Angels doubled their lead two at-bats later, after David Fletcher singled, stole second and scored on a Jared Walsh base hit.

Ohtani wreaked more havoc in the third inning, smoking a hard-hit single back up the middle before stealing second, his 17th stolen base of the season.

Since moving into the leadoff spot of the batting order on Tuesday, Ohtani has six hits (including four extra-base knocks) and four RBIs in his last four games.

“Every time we put somebody up there, they do well,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “He’s getting his stroke back.”

However, after he and Walsh, who drew a one-out walk, were both left stranded in the third, the Angels struggled to mount many threats the rest of the night. Despite having nine hits, they left 10 men on base and went just 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position.

Barria’s short start

After pitching at least six innings in his first three starts of the season, Jaime Barria failed to get through the fourth on Saturday, being pulled after surrendering three runs and seven hits with only one strikeout.

Barria retired the side in order in the first inning, but had to work out of a two-on, no-out jam in the second inning, getting a double-play to end the frame.

He wasn’t so lucky in the third.

Instead, after Jo Adell made an impressive diving catch to begin the inning, the Astros offense came to life, taking the lead with three runs on four hits: a Jake Meyers solo home run, Jose Altuve double, Michael Brantley infield single, Carlos Correa sacrifice fly and Yordan Alvarez RBI double.

Barria returned to the mound to start the fourth inning, but was replaced after giving up a leadoff single.

“Stuff-wise, it looked pretty normal,” Maddon said. “But they were just on him.”

Another grand slam

Entering Saturday, Meyers had no home runs in his brief MLB career.

But after his solo shot in the third, the Astros right fielder provided an encore in the sixth, belting a grand slam off reliever Junior Guerra to break open the score.

It was the third grand slam the Angels have allowed in their past four games.

Like the one Patrick Sandoval yielded on Friday, Guerra was punished for walking the first two batters in the inning. After a Jason Castro single loaded the bases, Meyers took advantage of a fastball over the outer edge of the plate, driving it 383 feet the other way to clear the wall in right field.

“That’s a balloon deflator if there’s ever been one,” Maddon said. “We started well, the game’s a solid game, we’re fighting to stay in it. And all of a sudden, boom, there it goes. Those are tough to absorb.”

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Angels notes: Chris Rodriguez goes on IL in Triple-A

Pitcher Chris Rodriguez was placed on the injured list in Class AAA on Saturday with what the Angels said was a right lat strain.

Rodriguez, 23, last pitched in the first game of Tuesday’s double-header against the Toronto Blue Jays, going only four innings despite giving up only one run.

It was the right-hander’s second MLB start after he’d been recalled from the minor leagues on Aug 2.

Rodriguez was in the Angels opening day bullpen, but missed time in May with right shoulder inflammation before being sent down to be stretched out as a starter.

The Angels didn’t immediately announce a timeline for Rodriguez’s recovery.

In other Angels news Saturday: Manager Joe Maddon said pitcher Alex Cobb is still battling wrist inflammation, leaving his return unclear.

“It’s just not ready, it’s just not right,” Maddon said of Cobb’s wrist, which landed him on the injured list on July 30.

“It’s baffling to him, and we’re trying to figure it out. They’re trying to get creative upstairs, do different things that might eliminate or at least alleviate what he’s got going on. But still not ready.”

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Patrick Sandoval gives up grand slam as Angels lose to Astros 4-1

Kyle Tucker hit a grand slam against Patrick Sandoval in the Astros 4-1 win Friday.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

Patrick Sandoval couldn’t get Carlos Correa to chase a changeup. He couldn’t tempt Yordan Alvarez to go after a couple sinkers. And he couldn’t put Aledmys Díaz away with a slider.

Twenty pitches into the fourth inning on Friday night, the Angels starter suddenly faced a bases-loaded jam with no outs against the Houston Astros.

And on pitch No. 21, he suffered perhaps his biggest blemish of the season.

Kyle Tucker hit his first career grand slam off a Sandoval slider above the knees, giving the Astros a lead they wouldn’t relinquish in an eventual 4-1 win in a series opener at Angel Stadium.

Sandoval wasn’t the only culprit Friday for the Angels, who mustered just two hits against Astros starter Zack Greinke and failed to complete a late-game rally to drop back under .500 at 58-59.

But the left-hander’s stuff looked off all night, highlighted by average pitch velocities noticeably below his season averages — though he said afterward he felt physically fine.

“It wasn’t his normal night,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said: “He just didn’t have that same life with all of his pitches tonight.”

The grand slam to Tucker was the fatal blow, breaking open what had been a scoreless game and sending Sandoval to one of his least effective starts of the season.

It was only the second time in 14 starts this season Sandoval had given up more than three earned runs. And after he was removed from the game with two outs in the fifth — he finished with a five-hit, two-walk, three-strikeout stat line — it also became only his second start to last less than five innings. For most of the year, the 24-year-old’s outings had been defined by his ability to escape danger, to execute critical pitches, to put batters away when given the chance.

Friday’s fourth inning, however, coalesced into a catastrophic result.

Correa managed a six-pitch walk to begin the inning, getting ahead 3-and-0 before watching a full-count changeup miss high. Alvarez worked an even longer battle in the next at-bat, fouling off three straight 2-and-2 offerings before laying off a couple of sinkers in a nine-pitch free pass.

After a visit from pitching coach Matt Wise, Sandoval got Díaz into a 2-and-2 count and tried to put him away with a slider. But Díaz got his bat to it, lifting a soft line drive to left that dropped just in front of a couple of Angels outfielders.

That brought Tucker to the plate, where he swung at a first-pitch slider that wasn’t in the heart of the zone but caught enough of the bottom outside corner for Tucker to hammer it 400 feet.

“Honestly, when I let go of that pitch, it felt good out of my hand, I saw it, he just got to it and hit it a mile,” Sandoval said. “But, moreso the Correa at-bat, the leadoff walk, they’re killers. And good teams like that will make you pay.”

That was all the scoring in the game until the eighth inning, when the Angels scratched across one run against reliever Kendall Graveman on a dribbling RBI single from Shohei Ohtani.

Bigger role looms for rookie Warren

Maddon said he intends to keep using rookie reliever Austin Warren in late-game leverage situations, when the Angels are either tied or protecting a lead.

“Whatever is going to be vital, he’ll be out there,” Maddon said.

It was a big signal of confidence in Warren, a 25-year-old former sixth-round draft pick who only made his major league debut on July 29.

In six games since in the majors, however, the right-hander has impressed in his first six outings. He has given up just three runs, pitched more than one inning four times and has two holds and a win.

“His mound presence, demeanor he comes right at you, he’s not messing around,” Maddon said. “He’s got a plus-slider. His sinker is outstanding … can get righties and lefties out, and has a changeup too. It’s an assertive attitude. A strike-throwing attitude.”

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Angels notes: Ohtani remains in leadoff spot, Stassi returns to lineup, Upton’s reduced role

For a fourth-straight game, Shohei Ohtani will bat leadoff when the Angels open a three-game series against the Houston Astros on Friday.

“I don’t really change my approach depending on where I’m hitting in the lineup,” Ohtani said through his interpreter on Thursday about batting first, something he’d only done four times total this season prior to this week. “But I have [David] Fletcher and [Jared] Walsh behind me, so I feel like I’m getting more pitches to hit and can be more aggressive when they pitch me in the strike zone.”

Catcher Max Stassi will also return to the lineup Friday. Stassi left Wednesday’s game early after getting hit by a pitch in the left forearm and didn’t play on Thursday.

His battery mate on Friday will be left-hander Patrick Sandoval, who enters the game with a 3.39 ERA and has given up more than three earned runs just once in 13 starts this year.

One other notable lineup decision Friday: Juan Lagares started in left field over Justin Upton, who has been in the lineup just twice in the past six games.

Maddon said part of the decision was based on trying to even out playing time among the team’s five outfielders, as well as wanting to give Lagares the chance to build off a recent uptick at the plate (Lagares is batting .333 with a .730 OPS since the All-Star break).

But Maddon also acknowledged that he had a conversation with Upton recently about the veteran’s reduced playing time.

Since returning from a back injury last month, Upton is batting just .143 with a .440 OPS in his last 17 games, and has split time in left field with recently recalled Jo Adell.

“J-Up is one of the best guys in that clubhouse,” Maddon said, adding: “So whenever you’re going to do something like that ... I explained to J-Up exactly what’s going on.”

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