There’s another old saying in sports: “If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best.”
That’s just what the Los Angeles Angels did on Friday night in Houston, beating the AL West-leading Astros 5-4. With an offense powered by four home runs, the Halos crept back over .500 again in the opener of a three-game series at Minute Maid Park.
Even more impressive is that the Orange County team did it against Justin Verlander, the Astro ace with a 7-1 lifetime record against the Angels.
“I’ve seen Verlander first-hand, saw him for years,” said manager Brad Ausmus, “You know you’re not going to score many runs, so to squeeze out four against him, that’s pretty good. Now you just need our pitchers to hold them down, which we were able to do.”
It was long ball that did it. Kole Calhoun, Shohei Ohtani, Andrelton Simmons and Mike Trout slammed four-baggers in the win that put the team record at 45-44. Trout’s eighth inning homer provided the margin of victory. It was the Angels third win in four games after the death of teammate Tyler Skaggs.
Calhoun’s blast was his 19th of the season, while Ohtani’s was his 13th of the year. Simmons’ homer was his fourth and Trout’s was his 26th.
The Angels jumped to 3-1 and 4-2 leads and survived a two-run rally by the Astros in the bottom of the eighth. The loss snapped a five-game winning streak by Houston.
Felix Pena (6-2) got the win, working four innings. He yielded three hits and two earned runs. He struck out five batters and walked one. Verlander (10-4) went seven innings, giving up seven hits and four earned runs. He struck out six and walked one.
Andrew Heaney (1-2) will start for the Angels on Saturday, with Gerrit Cole (8-5) scheduled for the Astros.