Valbuena helps Angels end skid with 7-5 win over Astros

HOUSTON -- The Los Angeles Angels left Houston upbeat after snapping a six-game skid with a much-needed win over the Astros to help their chase for the second AL wild card.

Luis Valbuena hit a tiebreaking two-run double in the seventh inning and Justin Upton tacked on an insurance run with a solo homer in the eighth to lead the Angels to the 7-5 victory Sunday night.

The Angels are 4 1/2 games behind Minnesota for the second wild card with seven games remaining.

"Anytime you win a game it feels good. We really needed that," second baseman Brandon Phillips said. "We needed wins way before that. But for us to win and play the way we did today, anything can happen. It's not over."

The Astros used a four-run third inning to lead 4-1. Phillips pulled the Angels closer with his first homer since being traded Aug. 31, a long solo shot off the train tracks atop left field in the fourth inning. Houston tied it in the fifth by scoring on back-to-back bases-loaded walks.

Valbuena hit his bases-loaded, go-ahead double with no outs off Chris Devenski (8-5), making it 6-4.

George Springer cut the lead with his solo homer to start the seventh before Upton homered for the third time in two days when he connected off Luke Gregerson. It was his 35th homer to extend a career high.

Keynan Middleton (6-1) pitched a scoreless sixth for the win, and Blake Parker struck out one in a perfect ninth for his seventh save.

The Angels got back on track offensively after managing just three runs combined in their last three games. Mike Trout got two hits Sunday night after going 0 for 8 in the first two games against Houston, and Phillips finished with two hits and two RBI.

"The last couple of days some of our mistakes have been going straight back," manager Mike Scioscia said. "Tonight they didn't. We hit the ball hard out there. I thought we did a good job working some counts ... really good at-bats against a team that can really pitch."

Houston starter Lance McCullers allowed four hits and two runs in 3 1/3 innings in his first start since Sept. 13. It was just the second start for McCullers since July 30 as the right-hander has missed time with a back problem and arm fatigue.

"It was good to see him compete," manager A.J. Hinch said. "It was good to see him have adversity a little bit, to work and compete and tax himself a little bit."

Tyler Skaggs yielded six hits and four runs in five innings before Middleton struck out two in the sixth. Springer sent Cam Bedrosian's first pitch into the right-field stands for his 33rd homer.

Hinch was ejected for the second time in three games when he was tossed for arguing with home plate umpire Will Little after Evan Gattis struck out to end the seventh inning.

Martin Maldonado doubled to start the third inning and scored later in the inning when Upton grounded into a force out to make it 1-0.

Skaggs plunked Springer with one out in the third before Alex Bregman sent a pitch into the seats in left field for his 17th homer to give Houston a 2-1 lead. Gattis added an RBI double in the third to push the lead to 4-1.

Calhoun and Trout hit back-to-back singles with one out in the fifth before Albert Pujols walked with two outs to load the bases. Phillips drew another walk from Francis Martes to send home a run and cut the lead to 4-3. Martes was replaced by James Hoyt, and he walked Andrelton Simmons to tie it up and draw loud boos from the home crowd.


Astros: OF Josh Reddick returned to the lineup after missing one game with a sore back.


Upton has hit six homers in his last eight games and has seven in 21 games since being traded from the Tigers on Aug. 31. Sunday's shot was his fourth homer this month against the Astros.


The double by Gattis in the third inning gave Houston 327 doubles this season to set a franchise record. The previous mark of 326 was set in 1998. Yuli Gurriel leads the team with 39, Altuve has 38, Bregman has 36 and Reddick has 34.


Angels: Ricky Nolasco (6-14, 5.06 ERA) is expected to start for Los Angeles in the first of four games against the White Sox on Monday. Nolasco didn't factor into the decision in his last start against Cleveland after yielded five hits and two runs in five innings.

Astros: Collin McHugh (3-2, 3.44) will start for Houston on Monday in the opener of a three-game series at Texas. He allowed five hits and one run in five innings of a win over the White Sox in his last start.


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