The Houston Astros eye just their third series win Wednesday in the middle test of a three-game series versus the LA Angels of Anaheim at Minute Maid Park.
The Astros took the opener by a 7-6 score, their most runs in a game since a 9-1 win at Yankee Stadium on April 29. It wasn't easy at first for Houston to snap a six-game slide and win for only the second time in 12 tries, as the Angels grabbed a 3-0 lead in the top of the first inning.
Houston got one back in the bottom half on Jose Altuve's solo homer, then took the lead for good with a five-run third inning. Chris Carter's three-run homer in the frame highlighted the offense and Altuve finished 2-for-3 with two runs scored and a pair of RBI.
Jose Veras tossed a perfect ninth to save it for Jordan Lyles, who earned the win after striking out six in five innings of work. He was charged with three runs before giving way to the bullpen.
"I think I threw the ball a little bit better tonight than I did last outing," Lyles said. "Just from the fact being down 3-0 and then putting up some zeros against a pretty good offense."
The Astros were outscored, 26-2, in the previous two games versus Detroit and won their two series over Seattle from April 8-10 and again April 22-24. Houston will finish its 10-game homestand (1-4) with three games versus Texas this weekend.
Bud Norris draws the start for Houston Wednesday and he is 3-3 with a 3.89 earned run average in seven starts. He is only 1-2 in his previous four outings and did not record a decision in Friday's 4-3 loss to the Tigers despite permitting just two runs in seven innings. He struck out a season-high seven batters. Closer Jose Veras couldn't preserve the save.
"Bud Norris did what a No. 1 starter does," Astros manager Bo Porter said. "When his team is light in the bullpen after a 14-inning game, he goes seven innings and held one of the best offensive teams in our league to two runs."
Tigers Hall of Fame skipper Jim Leyland concurred.
"Norris pitched really good," Leyland said. "I was impressed. We don't see these guys much. They throw good pitchers at you."
The Angels wasted a decent outing from C.J. Wilson and the left-hander allowed seven runs, two of which were earned, in 6 1/3 innings with 12 K's and two walks. It was Wilson's first loss of the season (3-1) and the five-run third inning put the left-hander behind the eight ball.
"For the most part, C.J. did a great job," said Angels catcher Hank Conger, who didn't help his battery mat with three errors on the night. "Today, I just wasn't able to back him up. Today really fell on me."
Anaheim did club three homers in its third straight loss and eighth in 10 tries, as Mark Trumbo belted a three-run shot in the first inning, Alberto Callaspo hit a two-run shot and Howie Kendrick went deep.
The Angels will try to keep the bats going and the errors to a minimum when winless right-hander Joe Blanton toes the rubber Wednesday. At 0-5 with a 5.97 earned run average in six starts, Blanton has dropped back-to-back trips to the hill and pitched well in a 5-1 loss to Baltimore last Thursday. He allowed three runs -- two earned -- in eight innings to remain winless in his first stint with the Halos.
"Joe pitched a strong ballgame, there's no doubt about it," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "On a normal night, if we're swinging the bats the way we can, we are going to win that game."
Blanton said a mechanical adjustment with his delivery has allowed him to hide the ball better and not tip his pitches to opposing batters. He'll try to keep the Astros at bay this evening and is 2-0 with a 2.57 ERA in five career games (4 starts) against them.
The Angels took two of three from Houston from April 12-14 in Anaheim. The Astros last won a series against the Angels back in 2004, winning two of the three meetings from June 18-20.