Shoemaker strong, but Halos fall to Astros

Shoemaker strong, but Halos fall to Astros

HOUSTON -- Lance McCullers Jr. threw 6 2/3 scoreless innings, striking out eight batters, and was backed by solo homers from Carlos Beltran and Jake Marisnick to send the Astros to a series win with a 2-1 victory over the Angels on Thursday afternoon at Minute Maid Park.

McCullers (2-0) didn't allow a hit until Andrelton Simmons led off the fifth with a single, which was one of three hits he gave up. Houston reliever Chris Devenski retired the first four batters he faced before Mike Trout took him deep to start the ninth, cutting the lead to 2-1.

Trout's solo home run

Devenski struck out Cameron Maybin and Danny Espinosa to end the game, stranding runners at second and third.

McCullers threw 100 pitches, including 50 curveballs, and said it was the best changeup he's had in awhile, which is why he threw 15 of them.

"If I'm shaking to it, I'm feeling really good with it," he said. "I would like it continue to feel this way, but it goes in and out. I've been working on it a lot, and hopefully it stays like this."

McCullers extended his streak of allowing no more than three runs in a home start to 23 games, which is a franchise record, lowering his career home ERA to 2.08 -- the lowest in Minute Maid Park history.

"He was pretty good," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "It was a well-pitched game on both sides, but Lance had a harder time getting into the game with his command and control. Once he did, I thought his fastball usage was exceptional, he got a ton of swing and misses (13) and really was the highlight. He was every bit of what we needed today because we really weren't getting much on the other side."

The Astros, who improved to 11-5 with their seventh win in eight games, managed three hits in seven innings against Angels starter Matt Shoemaker (0-1), who gave up only a second-inning double to Alex Bregman and a pair of walks other than the home runs by Marisnick and Beltran.

"Shoe got stronger as the game went on," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "I think a couple of mistakes he made were early to Beltran, just a split that stayed up, and then didn't get a pitch in to Marisnick enough. But I thought he was terrific, and he finished strong. He had all his pitches working at the end, so it's a good outing from Shoe."

The Angels dropped to 7-10 after going 1-6 over their seven-game road trip. Their scuffling offense has been the primary source of their struggles, as they batted just .181 (40-for-221) with eight extra-base hits and 65 strikeouts against the Royals and Astros. They have now lost eight of their last nine games.

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED

Party like it's 2004: Beltran, batting in the No. 2 hole for the first time this season, cranked his first home run of the season in the first inning. It was his first home run for the Astros since Game 4 of the 2004 National League Championship Series at Minute Maid Park, a tiebreaking shot in the eight off Julian Tavarez of St. Louis. The homer was the 422nd of his career, putting him four homers behind Billy Williams for 50th all-time.

Beltran's solo homer

"Honestly speaking, I don't get caught up in homers," Beltran said. "For me, it's about trying to put up quality at-bats. If I put up quality at-bts, I know [homers] are going to come. Today was a great win for us. McCullers did a great job and pitched a great game. We had key homers in two different innings, and that was good enough for us to get the win."

Devo whiffs it good: McCullers left the game after walking two batters in a row with two outs in the seventh, setting the stage for Devenski to flash his stuff for the final 2 1/3 innings. Devenski struck out Espinosa swinging to end the seventh, giving him eight strikeouts in the last 10 batters he's faced. Trout homered on a changeup in the ninth, but Devenski held on for his second career save by striking out Maybin and swinging on changeups to end the game and strand runners at second and third.

Devenski's seven-out save

"I was really locked in when that happened," Devenski said. "It's one pitch at a time and try to beat them with best stuff. If it goes late in the count like that, I know I have that changeup in the back door I'll be able to use."

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Devenski has 25 strikeouts in 13 1/2 innings for a 16.88 strikeouts per nine innings ratio.

WHAT'S NEXT
Angels: The Angels head back to Anaheim to open a four-game series with the Blue Jays on Friday at 7:07 p.m. PT at Angel Stadium. Right-hander Alex Meyer, ranked the club's No. 8 prospect by MLBPipeline.com, will start the opener and make his first Major League start of 2017. Meyer has logged a 4.80 ERA in three Triple-A starts this year.

Astros: Right-hander Mike Fiers (0-1, 5.40 ERA) will make his first start since April 12 in Seattle when the Astros open a three-game series at 6:10 p.m. CT Friday against the Rays in St. Petersburg. In his last start, Fiers gave up five runs and six hits in four innings.

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Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.

Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.