ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Justin Verlander pitched eight innings of one-hit ball in a stellar second start for Houston, and the Astros snapped their four-game skid with a 1-0 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday night.
Yuli Gurriel’s second-inning single drove in the only run for the Astros (87-57), who lowered their magic number for clinching the AL West title to five by blanking the second-place Angels (73-71).
Verlander (12-8) struck out nine and walked one in another overpowering performance for his new team. The star right-hander held the Angels without a hit after Brandon Phillips’ leadoff double in the first, allowing only two more baserunners.
Verlander pitched six innings of one-run ball in Seattle during his Astros debut last week, and he looks exactly like the stopper Houston wanted for the pennant race.
Ken Giles gave up another double to Phillips in the ninth, but the Angels’ new infielder slipped off the base after his slide and was tagged out. Giles then got Mike Trout on a grounder to complete his 30th save in 34 chances.
Justin Upton went 0 for 3 and Phillips went 2 for 4 in their home debuts for the Angels, who acquired both veterans in trades right before the start of their just-completed road trip. Los Angeles has lost four of five to fall two games behind Minnesota (75-69) for the second AL wild card.
Garrett Richards (0-1) pitched five innings of four-hit ball in his second start back from a five-month injury absence for the Angels.
The right-hander yielded one run on three singles in the second, but faced no other trouble while striking out four. His first appearance at the Big A since April 25, 2016, was another solid step on his road back from arm injuries that have derailed his past two seasons.
Richards missed 135 games with a biceps strain after making one start in April. He made only six starts in 2016 before tearing a ligament in his right elbow, but he avoided Tommy John surgery with rehabilitation — only to experience more arm woes this season.
Angels: LHP Andrew Heaney will miss at least one start with an “impingement” in his shoulder, manager Mike Scioscia said. He missed most of the past two seasons recovering from Tommy John surgery, returning to the rotation five starts ago. He was scheduled to pitch Friday, but Scioscia expects to use his bullpen for the combined effort instead.
Astros: Lance McCullers Jr. (7-3, 3.97 ERA) pitched three-run ball into the sixth inning last week in his first start back from a monthlong absence with a back injury.
Angels: Tyler Skaggs (1-5, 4.86) returned from the disabled list last month and has gone 0-4 with a 5.61 ERA. He hasn’t won since April 22, but the Angels must hope he gets it going to help a depleted rotation.
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