Angels can't solve Verlander, fall to Astros

Angels can't solve Verlander, fall to Astros

ANAHEIM -- It was the kind of performance the Astros were hoping they'd get from Justin Verlander when they traded for him two weeks ago.

Verlander played the role of stopper by firing eight one-hit innings, and Ken Giles closed out the ninth for his 30th save to halt the Astros' four-game skid with a 1-0 win over the Angels in Tuesday night's series opener at Angel Stadium.

"It feels good," said Verlander, who admitted he was a "little rusty" pitching on six days of rest. "Obviously, we have a bunch of other guys who could do the same thing on any given night, but on a night when we really needed it after a tough series and an off-day, you reset. Those are the things that make you feel good about it after the game, is we needed a big win today to get going again and we were able to get it."

Making his second start for Houston since being acquired from the Tigers, Verlander allowed only a leadoff double to Brandon Phillips in the first inning while walking one and striking out nine in the 112-pitch gem. Yuli Gurriel produced the lone run of the game with an RBI single to center field in the second inning.

Gurriel's RBI single

"We won today with a two-out base hit and an exceptional starting pitcher and a closer that came in and did his job, so it was a good win for us," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "Verlander was exceptional. I thought his fastball was really good. I thought he battled himself with his breaking ball until end and it got a little bit better as the game went on. He threw a couple of changeups, which is a good sign. He was in complete control of the game, obviously."

The victory lowered the Astros' magic number to clinch the American League West title to 5 with 18 games left to play. The Angels, who have now lost four of their last five games, dropped two games behind the Twins for the second AL Wild Card spot.

Hinch praises Verlander in win

"We obviously want to have the best record and have home-field advantage over everybody," Astros shortstop Carlos Correa said. "But we're focusing day by day on what we can control and get the wins we can and finish strong this season going into the playoffs. We're trying to clinch as soon as possible, and in order for us to do that we got to beat this team right here."

The Angels' offense, which had been bolstered over the last two weeks by the additions of Phillips and Justin Upton, mustered only three baserunners against Verlander and was unable to move a runner past second base.

"He just kept the ball down," Phillips said. "He was mixing pitches up. We weren't able to hit his mistakes, and that's just how baseball goes."

Garrett Richards pitched five strong innings for the Angels, allowing one run on four hits while walking none and striking out four in his second start since returning from the 60-day disabled list. On a restricted pitch count, Richards was removed after throwing 63 pitches, 45 of which were strikes. It marked Richards' first start at Angel Stadium since April 25, 2016.

"Garrett just had really good command of everything," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He was very pitch efficient, used all his pitches, pitched on both sides of the plate, had good movement on his fastball with obviously good velocity. That's a great five innings from Garrett."

Richards strikes out Altuve

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Tag, you're it: Phillips hit a one-out double to right field in the ninth inning against Giles, but he was called out after his foot came off the bag while Correa was applying the tag on his leg. Giles got Mike Trout to ground out for the final out of the game. Phillips said afterward that he thought Correa had nudged him off the bag, a maneuver he himself has used against opponents over the years.

Scioscia on shutout loss

"That's the first time I fell for my own trick, so I salute him for what he did," Phillips said. "That's the name of the game. I'm not mad about it because I would have done the exact same thing. I was on the bag, I just felt him giving me some extra loving."

Said Correa: "He said that I pushed him off, but it was like a stiff arm like how I tag everybody. I didn't feel like I was pushing him too hard or anything. I was trying to tag him and he was off balance and came off the bag, and I tagged him again."

Springer cuts down Phillips

Angels can't capitalize: The Angels put the leadoff man on board three times against Verlander, but they were unable to cash in on any of those opportunities. Phillips opened the bottom of the first by doubling to left field, but Verlander retired Trout, Upton and Albert Pujols to emerge unscathed. Trout drew a leadoff walk in the fourth, but Verlander then coaxed a 6-4-3 double play from Upton and induced a groundout from Pujols to end the inning. Trout also reached on a hit-by-pitch to start the seventh, but the Angels, again, came up empty.

Astros turn 6-4-3 double play

QUOTABLE
"I told these guys after the game, this defense is really special and makes our job easier to pitch to contact and know that if it stays in the yard we have a good chance to make a play on it." -- Verlander

Verlander on eight scoreless

WHAT'S NEXT
Astros: Mike Fiers will start for the Astros in Wednesday's 9:07 p.m. CT game against the Angels at Angel Stadium. Fiers was removed from the rotation Sept. 4 after the trade for Verlander and the activation of Lance McCullers Jr. from the DL. In his last eight starts, he was 1-5 with a 7.90 ERA.

Angels: Left-hander Tyler Skaggs (1-5, 4.86 ERA) will take the mound for the Angels on Wednesday as they continue their three-game series against the Astros at 7:07 p.m. PT at Angel Stadium. Skaggs is 2-2 with a 3.38 ERA in five career starts against Houston.

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Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com.

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

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