Nolasco, Pujols lead Angels past Astros
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[September 23, 2016]
HOUSTON -- It's easy to lose
sight of the effectiveness with which Angels right-hander Ricky
Nolasco has pitched of late, particularly given the lack of stakes
facing Los Angeles down the home stretch. On Thursday night, the
Houston Astros caught a glimpse.
Nolasco continued his recent excellence with seven shutout innings
and Albert Pujols' early home run stood up as the Angels snapped an
11-game losing streak against the Astros with a 2-0 victory at
Minute Maid Park.
Nolasco (7-14) produced his third scoreless outing for the Angels
(67-86) since being acquired from the Twins on Aug. 1. He allowed
five hits and one walk with five strikeouts to follow the six
scoreless innings he tossed at the Blue Jays on Saturday.
After using double plays to escape his two previous innings
unscathed, Nolasco retired the middle of the Astros order in order
in the seventh. He also twirled a shutout against the Reds on Aug.
31 and has surrendered just seven runs over his last 35 innings
covering five starts.
"I was spinning the ball pretty good," Nolasco said. "I thought I
was feeling the strike zone for the most part. I was challenging
with fastballs when I had to. I was pitching off some good breaking
balls to keep them off balanced."
Right-hander JC Ramirez preserved the shutout despite allowing a
pair of hits in the eighth inning. Andrew Bailey followed by picking
up his fifth save. The Angels defeated the Astros (81-72) on May 27
in the first game of the season series, saddling Houston
right-hander Mike Fiers with a loss that evening in Anaheim. Eleven
consecutive series losses later, the Angels got the best of Fiers
Pujols blasted his 31st home run off Fiers (11-8) with one out in
the first inning. It was his 53rd career homer against Houston and
28th home run at Minute Maid Park.
"Obviously, you want to take the lead right away, especially when
those guys have been playing pretty well against us this year,"
Pujols said. "It was one of those things that I got a good pitch to
hit and got a good swing."
Fiers struck out three in the first inning, but that frame was his
bumpiest by far. His one-out walk to Mike Trout set up Pujols'
two-run home run on the first pitch.
Two batters later, Andrelton Simmons doubled to the right-center
field and advanced to third on an error by center fielder Jake
Marisnick. Fiers recovered to strike out Jefry Marte, initiating a
string in which he retired 13 consecutive batters.
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"Just came out of the gate slow and made too many mistakes in the
first inning," said Fiers, who struck out a season-high nine batters
over 6 1/3 innings. "Pujols capitalized on a first-pitch fastball
and after that I settled in and got my pitches working and kept them
off-balance for the most part. I felt good overall and I ended up
going into the seventh."
Armed with a lead before he even took the mound, Nolasco pitched
with the intention of maintaining it. He worked around solo
baserunners in the first and third innings and struck out the side
in between in the second. Astros second baseman Jose Altuve singled
for a second consecutive at-bat in the fourth inning but was quickly
erased when Carlos Correa followed by grounding into a fielder's
In the fifth and sixth Nolasco induced double-play grounders, first
from Tony Kemp and then Yulieski Gurriel after George Springer led
off the sixth with a walk.
"Nolasco did a good job of moving the ball around," Astros manager
A.J. Hinch said. "We chased a ton out of the zone tonight, which is
not something we've done in the last week. Part of that was our
anxiousness, part of that was certainly his effectiveness."
NOTES: Astros RHP Lance McCullers completed his first bullpen
session since being placed on the 15-day disabled list with right
elbow discomfort on Aug. 3. McCullers tossed 30 pitches, all
fastballs and changeups, and will be re-evaluated Friday to
determine his next course of action. There is no timetable for his
return and he will include curveballs in his next bullpen session
before facing live batters. ... Angels OF Kole Calhoun went through
a rigorous pregame workout and will return to the starting lineup on
Friday night after missing three games to be with his wife for the
birth of their son. ... Astros television broadcaster Bill Brown
announced his retirement effective at the end of this season. Brown,
who joined the club in 1987, will call his final game Wednesday
against the Seattle Mariners.
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