ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) Touted rookie Carlos Correa is off to a blazing start, helping the Houston Astros maintain their lofty position in the AL West.
Correa hit a mammoth three-run homer off C.J. Wilson, his fourth in 15 big league games, and Luis Valbuena went deep twice to power the Astros to a 13-3 rout of the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday night.
”I wouldn’t say I’m surprised. I’m just going out there and having fun,” Correa said. ”All the work I’ve put in the offseason and spring training has paid off.”
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Correa drove a full-count pitch over both bullpens in left field with two outs in the second, giving Houston a 4-0 lead after singles by Valbuena and former Angel Hank Conger. Correa’s three hits raised his total to 20, breaking the franchise record for a player in his first 15 big league games. The old mark was 19, by Doug Rader (1967) and Josh Anderson (2007).
”He’s not a secret anymore. He’s a good player, and he’s very comfortable up here,” manager A.J. Hinch said. ”He’s not scared off by the moment and he’s not timid at all.”
The 20-year-old shortstop ended up with four RBIs, the last one in the ninth after rookie shortstop Taylor Featherston bobbled his routine grounder with the bases loaded – preventing the Angels from turning what should have been an easy inning-ending double play.
”I feel comfortable working with this group of players,” Correa said. ”When you’ve got guys like George Springer, who’s having a great month hitting in front of me and getting on base, and guys behind you like Jose Altuve, who’s one of the greatest hitters in the game, you just feel confident.”
The AL West-leading Astros have homered in 10 straight games, their longest streak since a 12-game stretch in 2007. They lead the majors with 107 home runs and 31 multihomer games, improving their record to 29-2 when they’ve hit more than one.
Collin McHugh (8-3) pitched a season-high eight innings, allowing two runs on nine hits and striking out six. The right-hander escaped a bases-loaded jam in the first after a two-out intentional walk to AL home run leader Albert Pujols.
Wilson (5-6) was charged with a season-worst seven earned runs and eight hits over 3 1-3 innings in his shortest outing of 2015.
The inconsistent left-hander allowed one run over 15 innings with 17 strikeouts in his previous two starts. In his two starts before that, both losses, he yielded 11 runs in losses.
”When you give up that many runs I guess in that short of an outing, not a lot is working,” Wilson said.
The Astros increased the margin to 7-0 with three runs in the fourth, including a leadoff homer by Valbuena, who came in batting in the eighth spot with a .186 average.
”He’s not getting a lot of hits to improve his batting average, but he does damage,” Hinch said. ”When you watch him every day, he doesn’t seem like a guy who’s hitting under .200.”
Wilson was replaced by Cam Bedrosian later that inning after loading the bases with a one-out intentional walk to Altuve. Evan Gattis then hit a sacrifice fly, and Correa scored on a wild pitch after hitting a double.
The Angels got on the board in the fourth with a two-run single by No. 9 hitter Efren Navarro, after loading the bases with Carlos Perez’s two-out single off McHugh’s glove.
But Valbuena responded in the fifth with a two-run homer that made it 9-2, driving Bedrosian’s 1-1 pitch just beyond the reach of Kole Calhoun as he made a diving attempt at the short fence in the right field corner and disappeared into the first row of seats.
It was Valbuena’s career-high 19th home run, the most ever by an Astros third baseman through the team’s first 73 games. The previous record was set in 2006 by Morgan Ensberg, who finished that season with 23.
”I’m not trying to hit a home run every time. I just try to hit the ball hard, and it goes,” Valbuena said.
Gattis drove in a run with a first-inning double after Correa singled and advanced to third on a wild pitch and a balk. It was the 10th consecutive game that the Astros scored first, and eighth time they plated a run in the opening inning.
Astros: RHP Lance McCullers (3-2) has a 2.45 ERA through his first seven big league starts, including a complete-game four-hitter on June 3 against Baltimore.
Angels: RHP Matt Shoemaker (4-5) lost a 6-5 decision against Houston at the ”Big A” on May 9, giving up six runs and three homers in three innings. It was one of four starts this season in which he allowed five or more earned runs – something he did only once in 20 starts last season, when he set a club rookie record with 16 wins.