Verlander, Astros Beat Angels 5-2; Pujols HR for 2,994th Hit
HOUSTON (AP) — Justin Verlander, Jose Altuve and the Houston Astros did enough to deny the Los Angeles Angels a three-game sweep.
Verlander pitched seven sharp innings, Altuve hit his first home run of the season and the Astros won 5-2 Wednesday, ending the Angels' road winning streak at a team record-tying 11 in a row.
"We are tough to sweep because of our pitching matchups and our rotation," Verlander said. "The old adage, 'You're only as good as the next day's starting pitcher' — I think we like our chances every day."
"It was a tough-fought series. You can't expect to win every series, especially against a team like that because they're very talented, he said.
Albert Pujols connected off Verlander for his 619th career homer. Pujols now has 2,994 hits.
Verlander said he was "letting it fly" and "got a little erratic" in the seventh when he allowed two runs. But he said his body felt the best it had all season and his fastball command was the best it has been so far.
Verlander (4-0) held the Angels hitless into the fifth inning before Zack Cozart singled with two outs. Verlander gave up two runs and four hits, striking out nine without a walk.
Verlander won his 11th regular-season decision in a row, dating to mid-August last year, before the Detroit traded him to Houston.
"I feel like I say this every time he pitches, but what a great job of dominating and controlling the game he did," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "Even in the inning where he wobbled a little bit, it never gets away from him."
Alex Bregman hit a three-run double and Jake Marisnick homered for Houston. The Angels had also won 11 straight road games in 1988.
Ken Giles pitched a scoreless ninth for his second save.
Nick Tropeano (1-2) retired the first 11 batters he faced, striking out six.
With two outs in the fourth, Tropeano walked Carlos Correa and Josh Reddick and hit Yuli Gurriel to load the bases. Bregman cleared them for a 3-0 lead.
"When you take two of three from a division opponent, that's still a morale boost," Tropeano said. "Obviously, we want to sweep. We all want to win every game."
Altuve's sixth-inning homer came on a 79 mph hanging slider. The AL MVP hit 24 homers in each of the past two seasons.
After Altuve's homer, he gleefully skipped off the field into a cold dugout full of players, coaches and staff who were intent on completely ignoring him. He pretended to high-five teammates in the air, laughing and put his helmet down before his teammates finally cracked and celebrated with him.
"I was so proud running the bases and when I got to the dugout, I was like, 'OK, I know what's going on,'" Altuve said. "I knew they were happy, but they wanted to give me the silent treatment."
Marisnick also put one into the Crawford Boxes in left field, making it 5-2 in the seventh.
Correa extended his hitting streak to 10 games with a double in the sixth.
Pujols hit a line drive homer to deep left-center in the seventh for his fifth home run of the season. A single by Andrelton Simmons and a double from Cozart cut Houston's lead to 4-2 later in the inning.
"He was tough, needless to say," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of Verlander. "As the game went on, we got some better looks at him. Albert got us going. He pitched a good game, no doubt."
"It feels like a dream come true," Altuve said after connecting for his first home run of the year. He snapped a 35-game homerless streak in the regular season, his longest since a 47-game drought in 2014.
PUJOLS IN HOUSTON
Pujols' home run was his 58th against the Astros, the most all-time by any player against the franchise. It was also his 31st career homer at Minute Maid Park, the most ever by a visiting player at the stadium.
Pujols played a decade against the Astros as an NL Central division rival when he was with the Cardinals — hitting a memorable, monster home run against Houston in the playoffs — before moving to the Angels and the AL West in 2011. Two years later, the Astros shifted to the AL West and again saw him more frequently.
Verlander has fanned 2,464 in his career, tied for 36th all-time with Mark Langston. Verlander trails Rangers pitcher Bartolo Colon by nine strikeouts for 35th place.
Angels: Andrew Heaney (0-1, 9.64 ERA) will make his third start of the season on Friday at home against the Yankees, seeking his first winning decision since last August. Heaney was charged with the loss in last Friday's start against San Francisco, where he allowed seven runs on six hits with two walks in 4 1/3 innings.
Astros: Dallas Keuchel (1-3, 3.10) enters his sixth start of the season hoping to build off of his first win of the season as the Astros host Oakland on Friday. In his last start, Keuchel held the White Sox to one run on four hits in six innings in a 6-1 win.