The Houston Astros and Los Angeles Angels are the two best teams in the American League West, but for now the best pitcher on either team is Justin Verlander.
His pitching performance was the difference in Wednesday’s 5-2 win over the Halos at Minute Maid Park. He worked seven crisp innings, giving up just four hits and two runs, one of them on a home run by Albert Pujols on a one-run shot in the seventh. It was his 2,994th career hit . Verlander (now 4-0) struck out nine batters and walked none.
“You don’t ever want to be the guy starting on the last day of the series and your team is facing a sweep, but my job’s to end it,” Verlander said. “We are tough to sweep because of our pitching matchups, our 1-5, and our rotation. The old adage, ‘You’re only as good as the next day’s starting pitcher,’ and I think we like our chances every day.”
The Astros’ win kept them from being swept in the three-game series with the Angels, and pushed them back into first place in the AL West. Houston (17-9) is a half-game ahead of the Orange County team (16-9).
Nick Tropeano (1-2) took the loss. He lasted 5.1 innings, giving up four hits and four runs. He walked three and struck out six.
After three scoreless innings, the Astros pushed across three runs in the fourth and added one more in the sixth and seven innings. The Angels’ two runs came in the top of the seventh on Pujols’ homer – his fifth of the year – and an RBI double by Zach Cozart.
The Angels will have Thursday off, and then start a three-game series on Friday hosting the New York Yankees (14-9).