Preston Tucker singled home the tying run for his first major league hit, and the Houston Astros rallied with three runs in the ninth against closer Huston Street to beat the Los Angeles Angels 3-2 Thursday night.
The Astros increased their lead over the Angels to a season-best six games in the opener of a four-game series between the top two teams in the AL West.
For the second straight night, Street (2-1) blew a lead in the ninth after converting his first nine save opportunities of the season. The right-hander, trying to protect a 2-0 lead for Hector Santiago, allowed consecutive RBI singles by Jake Marisnick and Tucker, who was making his big league debut after his contract was selected from Triple-A Fresno.
After a walk to No. 9 hitter Jonathan Villar loaded the bases, Jose Altuve beat the relay from shortstop Erick Aybar on a potential inning-ending double-play grounder to second base as Marisnick scored the go-ahead run.
Pat Neshek (3-0) pitched two-thirds of an inning and Luke Gregerson got the last three outs for his seventh save in eight chances.
Santiago allowed one hit over 6 1-3 innings, struck out five and walked four.
Altuve, the reigning AL batting champ, opened the game with a single to left field – but the Astros did not get another hit until Villar led off the eighth with a single against Joe Smith.
The defending AL West champion Angels, coming off consecutive walkoff wins against the Seattle Mariners, got a first-inning home run from Mike Trout and an eighth-inning RBI single from Kole Calhoun.
Santiago was charged with balks in the third and fourth innings, but escaped each jam unscathed. Prior to this outing, he had committed three balks in 380 2-3 innings in the big leagues.
Collin McHugh was charged with two runs and five hits in 7 1-3 innings, but his string of 11 consecutive winning decisions remained intact because of the late rally that left him with a no-decision.
McHugh got all seven of his strikeouts through the first six innings, and his 71 pitches were still 30 fewer than Santiago had to that point. Santiago faced one more batter, striking out Jason Castro to open the seventh, and Smith stranded the potential tying run at third base in the eighth by striking out Evan Gattis.
The Angels’ inning in the eighth ended – just as last Saturday’s loss at San Francisco did – when Albert Pujols’ hard-hit ball struck Chris Iannetta between second and third base. Pujols was credited with a single.
Marisnick, the Astros’ center fielder, had a rare unassisted double play to end the bottom of the fourth inning after Pujols singled and lost track of the outs. He was almost at third base on a shallow flyball by Matt Joyce when Marisnick raced in to catch the ball and continued all the way to first instead of throwing it to Chris Carter.
Altuve, a two-time All-Star second baseman, started a slick inning-ending double play in the Angels’ fifth when he went behind the bag to glove Giavotella’s grounder and made a backhanded flip to Villar in the same motion.
COMINGS AND GOINGS
Astros: Tucker got his opportunity after OF George Springer went on the seven-day concussion DL in Wednesday. Tucker started in left field and was 1 for 3 with a walk.
Angels: Acquired INF Ryan Jackson from Kansas City in a trade that sent backup C Drew Butera to the defending AL champion Royals.
Astros: RHP Roberto Hernandez (1-2) is 0-4 with a 2.47 ERA lifetime against the Angels, one of two clubs he has never defeated. The other is the Cleveland Indians, whom he has never faced.
Angels: RHP Jered Weaver is 0-4 with a 6.29 ERA in six starts – including a six-inning no-decision at Houston on April 17 – this season. It’s the longest drought from the start of a season by Weaver, who had 18 wins last year.