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Halos roll past Astros, stay two back in WC
By Brian McTaggart and Maria Guardado
ANAHEIM -- Left-hander Tyler Skaggs tossed seven scoreless innings and Luis Valbuena and Justin Upton homered to propel the Angels to a 9-1 win over the Astros on Wednesday night at Angel Stadium.
One day after being one-hit over eight innings by Justin Verlander, the Angels' offense came back to life, producing 13 hits and roughing up Mike Fiers for eight runs over 3 2/3 innings. The Halos scored five runs in the first and three more in the fourth before Upton capped the output in the sixth with a solo homer, his first as an Angel.
Skaggs held the Astros to three hits while walking one and striking out five. After recording a 5.86 ERA in his first six starts since returning from the disabled list, Skaggs decided to bring back his two-seamer, which he stopped throwing after coming back from Tommy John surgery last year. He has used the pitch more frequently over his last two outings, allowing three runs over 13 innings.
"It's huge," Skaggs said. "If you watch the game, you can see I throw a lot of two-seamers, and it's completely different from my four-seam. It's a little slower, moves a little bit better. I threw some good changeups today and the huge thing for me is I was throwing the curveball for a strike. When I can throw it for a strike, it opens up everything."
Tyler White doubled and scored on Max Stassi's sacrifice fly in the eighth to produce the lone run for Houston. Center fielder Jake Marisnick departed the game in the third inning after suffering a right thumb injury on a slide into second base.
Fiers, starting in place of Lance McCullers Jr. (arm fatigue), is 1-4 with a 9.42 ERA in his last eight starts.
"I thought I threw the ball exceptionally well," Fiers said. "The ball was coming out well. I made some good pitches. A couple of bloopers here, but also a couple of hard hit. It turned into a bad inning. To get off to that start, it's tough for a team to come back out of that hole and compete. You have to give credit to them. They put up good at-bats and their pitcher threw very well, as well."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Extra-base hits galore: The Angels produced five extra-base hits off Fiers to build a quick 5-0 lead in the first. Brandon Phillips and Mike Trout opened the inning with back-to-back doubles to put the Angels on the board. Kole Calhoun and Andrelton Simmons later added consecutive RBI doubles with two outs, and Valbuena capped the outburst with a two-run home run to right field. Valbuena, a former Astro, punctuated his 20th homer of the season with his customary bat flip.
When Valbuena took his second at-bat in the fourth, Fiers threw a ball above and behind Valbuena's head, prompting home plate umpire Cory Blaser to issue warnings to both teams. Valbuena followed with a double, setting the stage for a three-run inning for the Angels.
Fiers took exception to Valbuena's bat flip on the homer.
"You watch this game and you know what goes on," Fiers said. "What he did to me, I took it as disrespect. Obviously, I played with Valbuena and I have no hard feeling towards him, but when you do something like that, as disrespectful as he did, you've got send some kind of message. I'm not trying to hit him, but something has to be said."
Said Valbuena: "I enjoyed my home run. If he wants to hit me, it's OK, but if I hit another home run, you'll see what happens."
Upton's first homer as an Angel: Upton launched his 29th home run of the season and his first in an Angels uniform off Tyler Clippard in the sixth, extending the Halos' lead to 9-0. Upton's solo shot to left-center-field gave him 100 RBIs on the season and 250 home runs for his career. More >>
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS Albert Pujols collected his 95th RBI of the season in the fourth inning, making him the first player in Major League history to reach the mark in 16 different seasons.
WHAT'S NEXT Astros:The Astros cap their 10-game road trip by sending right-hander Brad Peacock (10-2, 3.05 ERA) to the mound in Thursday's 9:07 p.m. CT series finale against the Angels at Angel Stadium. Peacock is 7-2 with a 3.33 ERA in 18 starts this season.
Angels: The Angels will send right-hander Ricky Nolasco (6-13, 5.19 ERA) to the mound on Thursday as they close out their three-game series against the Astros at 7:07 p.m. PT at Angel Stadium. In 12 career outings against Houston, Nolasco is 7-2 with a 3.82 ERA.