HOUSTON (AP) The Houston Astros are back in first place in the American League West – the first time they have led their division this late in the season in 12 years.
Rookie Lance McCullers pitched seven solid innings and Preston Tucker and Jon Singleton homered to help the Astros to a 6-3 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday night that regained the division lead for them.
Houston took the first two games of the series to move one game ahead of Angels, who came into town leading the division. It’s the latest the Astros have been atop their division since Sept. 21, 2003, when they led the NL Central.
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”These are big games for us, no dancing around it,” McCullers said. ”I think we’ve played really well and we’re going to continue to play really well going forward.”
McCullers (5-3) allowed five hits and one run with five strikeouts and lowered his ERA to 2.48.
The Astros trailed by one before a two-run fifth, capped by an RBI single by Jose Altuve made it 2-1. Tucker hit a solo homer in the sixth and Singleton’s shot came in the seventh to push the lead to 4-1.
Los Angeles starter Garrett Richards (10-8) yielded seven hits and four runs in 6 1-3 innings.
Conor Gillaspie’s RBI triple put the Angels up early, but they were unable to string hits together after that with star Mike Trout out again with a left wrist injury.
”He’s a huge part of our offense, but if one guy is going to be out of the lineup you have to have a good enough one to go out and make things happen,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.
The Astros added two runs in the eighth inning on a sacrifice fly by Hank Conger and an RBI single by Singleton.
Albert Pujols hit his 30th home run of the season off Luke Gregerson to cut the lead to 6-2 in the ninth inning. It made him just the sixth player in major league history to hit 30 homers in at least 13 seasons and the only one to do it in his first 15 seasons.
Johnny Giavotella added an RBI single with two outs in the inning, but he retired Carlos Perez to end the game.
Luis Valbuena doubled to lead off the bottom of the fifth, advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on a sacrifice fly by Colby Rasmus to tie it at 1-all. Houston took a 2-1 lead on an infield single by Altuve, which extended his hitting streak at Minute Maid Park to 18 games, a record for the park.
Tucker added a run for the Astros with a homer to start the sixth.
Singleton’s shot chased Richards with one out in the seventh and pushed the lead to 4-1. It was the first home run in the majors this season for Singleton, who hit 17 at Triple-A Fresno before he was called up on June 26.
”It is a weight off my shoulders,” Singleton said. ”It’s definitely a good chance for me to kind of like be happy about what I did today. … I can take a deep breath after tonight’s game.”
Erick Aybar doubled with one out in the second and scored on a two-out triple by Gillaspie to make it 1-0.
The Angels got both of their new acquisitions in the lineup Wednesday, with David DeJesus starting in Trout’s place in center field and David Murphy playing left field. DeJesus was traded from Tampa Bay and Murphy from Cleveland on Tuesday.
Angels: Scioscia doesn’t expect Trout to be out for much longer and said Wednesday that he was getting better. ”We’re definitely going to err on the side of caution to make sure he’s where he needs to be … it’s definitely the type of injury where you would rather give it a couple of more days on this end and not risk a couple of weeks on the back end,” he said.
Astros: The Astros announced after the game that INF Jed Lowrie (torn thumb ligament) will be activated from the 60-day DL on Thursday. He has been out since April 27. … Houston designated RHP Roberto Hernandez for assignment to make room on the roster for Lowrie.
LHP Scott Kazmir, who was acquired in a trade with Oakland last week, will make his home debut Thursday night against RHP Matt Shoemaker in the finale of the series. Kazmir, who grew up in suburban Houston, threw seven innings in a 4-0 win over Kansas City in his first game with the Astros on Friday. ”It was always special coming here and playing on a different team,” he said. ”I always had that special feeling pitching in front of friends and family. So putting on this uniform and going out there is going to be a lot more special.”