Jared Walsh’s four hits lead Angels’ rally over Astros
The inning technically began with a soft pop out by Mike Trout.
On a night Walsh went four for four with a walk — coming only a triple shy of the cycle — and made two key defensive plays, no moment was bigger than the powerful swing he took with one out in the sixth inning.
Walsh lined a home run over the wall in right, the first blow in what became a four-run rally that lifted the Angels to a come-from-behind, 5-4 win over the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park.
“Pretty spectacular,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said of Walsh. “You can’t win that game without him out there tonight.”
When Walsh came to the plate in the sixth inning, the Angels were in a deep hole. They trailed the Astros 4-1. They were in the middle of a patchwork bullpen game. And they had found little success over the first five innings against Astros starter Luis Garcia.
Facing Walsh for the third time, Garcia used a couple curveballs to get Walsh to two strikes. He tried to put him away with a cutter in on Walsh’s hands. But the left-handed hitter was able to square it up and drive a bullet inside the right-field foul pole. It snapped the rest of the lineup awake.
The bullpen has been one of the Angels’ weak points this season, but it held strong in a 2-1 victory over the Dodgers that left Trevor Bauer upset.
In the next at-bat, Justin Upton launched a solo blast deep into the left-field Crawford Boxes at the Astros’ home park, making it a one-run deficit.
Garcia was pulled from the game, giving way to Brandon Bielak. But he immediately walked Jose Rojas, gave up a double to Taylor Ward, and watched Astros shortstop Carlos Correa fail to cleanly field an infield single by Phil Gosselin that let the tying run cross the plate.
With runners on the corners, Drew Butera came to the plate next and dropped a safety squeeze in front of the mound.
Bielak charged and tried to flip the ball with his glove to catcher Jason Castro, but it sailed over Castro’s head, allowing Ward to score and everyone else to reach safely.
It gave the Angels a 5-4 lead. Their bullpen locked it down from there.
With the Angels’ original scheduled starter for Monday, Alex Cobb, on the injured list with a blister, the team opted for a bullpen game that began with Junior Guerra serving as the opener.
Guerra, however, managed only three outs in his start, charged with one run in the first and two runs in the second as the Astros jumped out to a lead.
Recently recalled left-hander José Suarez pitched the next four innings, giving up a lot of solid contact but only one run.
Steve Cishek got in trouble in the sixth, giving up a double and walk while recording just one out, but was bailed out by Tony Watson, who retired the final two batters of that frame and all three he faced in the seventh.
The eighth and ninth innings were handled by Mike Mayers and Raisel Iglesias. Despite each having pitched the previous two days, they both looked sharp.
Mayers retired the side in order in the eighth. In the ninth, Iglesias struck out his first two batters before stranding a two-out double to earn his sixth save.
“Both of these guys are veterans, both saying they feel good,” Maddon said. “I really was anticipating an uptick in their stuff, which you did see. So a real team effort up and down.”
But it was Walsh who provided the biggest contributions, tallying his second four-hit game of the season to raise his batting average to .347 and on-base-plus-slugging percentage to 1.020. With 29 RBIs, he ranks second in the majors.
Angels pitchers struggle with giving up the longball in a 9-1 loss to the Houston Astros on Wednesday.
Since Sep. 4 of last year — when the 27-year-old former 39th-round draft pick began to establish himself as the club’s first baseman of the future — no one in baseball has driven in more runs than his 55.
On Monday, he had two chances to complete the cycle, but singled in the seventh and walked in the ninth.
Did the thought of a triple ever cross his mind?
“I mean, it enters your mind,” he said. “But I’d have to smoke a ball to right-center to get a triple. I’m not the fastest guy in the world.”
There are few other skills Walsh — who also was praised by Maddon for handling two awkward hops defensively in Monday’s game — doesn’t possess.
“He’s playing with a lot of confidence,” Maddon said, adding: “It’s not surprising. He’s very capable of doing those things.”
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