Bullpen yields win and AL West lead

ASTROS’ JOSE ALTUVE is tagged at home by Angel catcher Martin Maldonado. He hit a three-run double Tuesday night to lead Houston to a 5-3 win at the Big A (Angels photo).

By Pete Zarustica

ANAHEIM – The Los Angeles Angels are in a good news, bad news situation. The happy tidings are that the team has developed a solid, even special starting pitching rotation that gives the Halos a chance at winning in nearly every game.

The unhappy headlines might read something like this: “Angel Bullpen Blows It Again.”

On Tuesday at the Big A, the Halos had a 3-1 lead over the Houston Astros going after seven innings, thanks to home runs by Justin Upton and Rene Rivera and a stellar starting performance by Jaime Barria.

As is standard practice these days, that means yanking the starter and going to the bullpen. Yikes.

As is standard practice these days, the relief corps – primarily Jose Alvarez – was lit up like a pinball machine by the Astros, who scored four runs to win 5-3. The victory allowed them to reclaim the lead in the American League West with a 27-17 record, one game ahead of the Angels (25-17).

The key blow was a bases-loaded three-run double by Jose Altuve in the eighth which gave the visitors a 4-3 lead. He had two hits and three RBIs on the night.

“You just try to hit the ball,” Altuve said. “Bases loaded, down by two, you just want to make contact and score a run at least and let Carlos [Correa] get another at-bat. Like I said, just put the ball in play. I didn’t hit it really hard, but probably in the right spot.”

“Altuve hit a good pitch, and that’s probably the one guy you don’t want to see in that situation there, but unfortunately he found him,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.

The relievers meltdown spoiled a gem by Barria, who worked seven innings, giving up four hits and no runs while walking no one and striking out seven.

On Wednesday the Halos will try to get nine innings out of its pitching staff when they again host the Astros, with Garrett Richards (4-1) going against Astro ace Justin Verlander (4-2).

ALSO: In other MLB action on Tuesday, the Los Angeles Dodgers lost 4-2 to the Miami Marlins. The Dodgers are 16-25 and in fourth place in the National League West.

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