There wasn’t a lot of confidence from the Angels fan base coming to the team’s weekend series with the Houston Astros. The Angels were 3-7 through 10 games against the Houstonians. Last night’s win in a game started by Bud Norris – who has owned the Angels – created a little bit of positivity. But the onslaught the Angels brought upon the Astros tonight was another story.
The Angels mixed in every ingredient of what was supposed to make this team a World Series contending team. Patience, timely hitting and airtight defense. They even got a bonus above average start from Joe Blanton who, over his last five starts, has been one of the Angels better pitchers. This team has found it’s groove again. Maybe it is too late. But, then again, teams have come back from larger deficits.
Once again, the game started out like a pitchers duel. Through three innings, the Angels had managed only two hits, and had wasted a golden opportunity to get on the board in the first inning when they had two men on and only one out. The Astros, meanwhile, were being perfected by Blanton, who looked as comfortable as he has all year. In the fourth inning however, things got wacky.
Astros starting pitcher Jordan Lyles, came into tonight’s game having only hit four batters all season long. Four. One-two-three-four. He hit two in the fourth inning, catching Howie Kendrick in the head when Howie squared around to bunt, and then Peter Bourjos later in the inning on his left wrist. Peter was removed from the game with a contusion on his wrist and was sent for precatuionary X-Rays. But two-run singles off the bat’s of both Alberto Callaspo and Erick Aybar were the story of the inning. Giving a cruising Joe Blanton and the Angels a four-run cushion, a cushion that would have been plenty.
An inning later, Howie extracted a little revenge, although not at Lyles’ expense. Howie lined his ninth home run of the season to right field off of reliever Josh Fields. Pushing the Angels lead to 5-0, and putting fans in relaxed mode.
Blanton wasn’t completely clean tonight though. After twirling six innings of scoreless baseball, allowing only two hits and one walk up to that point, a leadoff walk to Chris Carter was followed by a two-run home run by Brett Wallace. He retired the next two batters in order, and his night was over. He finished the night allowing three hits, giving up two walks and striking out six batters. He lowered his ERA on the season to 5.07, not acceptable by any measure, but a far cry from the near-7 ERA he was brandishing at the end of April.
A Chris Iannetta two-run home run a half an inning later made the score 7-2, and shutdown relief from both Dane De La Rosa and Garrett Richards closed the book on this one. The now five game winning streak has the Angels sitting at 38-43 with 12 games before the All-Star break. Not a bad position to be in considering how hopeless this team looked merely a week ago.
The series concludes tomorrow 11:10 AM PST. The Angels will look to complete their second consecutive series sweep with C.J. Wilson on the mound opposite Lucas Harrell. Light up the halo, this team is exciting again.