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Chavez settles in, but bats are cold vs. Astros
By Maria Guardado and Richard Dean
HOUSTON -- Jose Altuve drove in two runs and Charlie Morton pitched five scoreless innings to lead the Astros to their fifth consecutive win -- 3-0 over the Angels on Monday night in the series opener at Minute Maid Park.
Altuve contributed a sacrifice fly in the third to put the Astros ahead, 2-0, and added another insurance run with an RBI double in the eighth, though he was thrown out at third by Danny Espinosa while trying to stretch the double into a triple. Altuve is now batting .414 (12-for-29) over his last eight games.
"We did a good job of capitalizing," said Alex Bregman, who had two hits in place of the injured Carlos Correa at shortstop. "Altuve had a big hit. Back-to-back doubles in the eighth was huge. That's big insurance. This team is fun to be a part of."
The Angels, meanwhile, dropped their sixth consecutive game after being shut out for the second day in a row. They have not scored in 20 innings, with their last run coming in the seventh inning of a 3-2 loss to the Royals on Saturday.
"It's not ideal," first baseman C.J. Cron said. "We haven't been hitting it like we know we should or like we know we can. Unfortunately, this type of stuff happens. The pitchers have been working their tails off and not getting run support kind of [stinks], but it's a long season and we're right there, so we're all right."
Morton, who was originally slated to start on Sunday against the A's but had his start pushed back one day following a rainout, allowed five hits while walking two and striking out three. Morton needed 92 pitches to get through the outing and weaved in and out of trouble, but the Angels were unable to break through despite multiple scoring opportunities.
"He didn't have it tonight and somehow found a way to put up zeros," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "He was rescuing innings every single inning."
Jesse Chavez continued to reverse the early-season rotation woes by delivering the third consecutive strong start for the Angels, surrendering two runs on seven hits over seven innings. But the 33-year-old right-hander took his second loss.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Morton leaves them loaded: The Angels have been struggling to score runs recently, a trend that continued on Monday night when they left nine men on base and went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position. In the second inning, the Angels loaded the bases with two out after Espinosa laid down a bunt single, Martin Maldonado singled and Yunel Escobar walked. But they came away empty-handed after Morton coaxed a flyout to left field from Ben Revere. More >
"It would have been nice if I was in the zone more and executing my pitches better," Morton said. "My misses were in weird spots, in a good way. My misses were down so I think that's a good sign."
Escobar's costly error: After the Angels didn't capitalize on their bases-loaded opportunity in the second, the Astros got on the board in the bottom half of the inning with the help of a throwing error by Escobar. Escobar fielded a ground ball by Evan Gattis, but then he made a wide throw to Cron at first, allowing Gattis to advance to second with one out. Bregman followed with an RBI single, giving Houston a 1-0 lead.
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The Astros' five-game winning streak is their longest since winning seven in a row, June 18-25, 2016. At 9-4, they tied the best 13-game start to a season in club history -- matching teams from 1972, '79, '86, '88, 2004 and 2006.
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In the seventh, Norichika Aoki hit a chopper to Cron at first and initially seemed to beat out a 3-6-3 double play after first-base umpire D.J. Reyburn ruled safe at first. But Angels manager Mike Scioscia issued a challenge after replay review showed that shortstop Andrelton Simmons' throw had beaten Aoki to the bag. The call was ultimately overturned.
WHAT'S NEXT Angels: Right-hander Ricky Nolasco will make his fourth start of the season on Tuesday as the Angels continue their four-game series with the Astros at 5:10 p.m. PT. Nolasco has a 5.40 ERA this season and took the loss in his last outing on Thursday after allowing five runs over five innings against the Rangers.
Astros:Joe Musgrove will make his third start of the season and first against a team other than the Mariners on Tuesday when he faces the Angels at 7:10 p.m. CT. Musgrove (1-0, 4.35 ERA) has not pitched deep into a game this season, throwing only 10 1/3 innings over his two starts.