One night after receiving an exceptional performance from their bullpen in a pinch, the Los Angeles Angels had to figure the odds were slim that they would get another stellar effort.
The circumstances didn’t seem favorable at the onset, with the Angels placing scheduled starter Alex Cobb on the 10-day injured list over the weekend and opting to use right-handed reliever Junior Guerra as the opener against the Houston Astros to begin a three-game road series.
But after Guerra allowed the same number of runs as outs recorded (three), five Angels relievers combined to limit the Astros to one run over the final eight innings in a 5-4 victory. Now Los Angeles will turn to a regular starter, right-hander Shohei Ohtani, for the middle game of the series Tuesday.
Included in the Angels’ collection of productive relievers Monday was left-hander Jose Suarez, recalled to replace Cobb on the active roster, and high-leverage right-handers Mike Mayers and Raisel Iglesias, both of whom pitched in the white-knuckle victories over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday and against the Astros.
“That’s a couple of days in a row,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “They did it (Sunday) against the Dodgers and they did it again (Monday) against a good Astros team in their ballpark.”
Ohtani (1-0, 2.41 ERA) did not factor into the decision in his previous start against the Tampa Bay Rays despite hurling five scoreless innings of one-hit ball with seven strikeouts. Ohtani logged five innings in both of his previous two starts after failing to reach that threshold in his first two starts of the season. He has 30 strikeouts in just 18 2/3 innings with at least seven strikeouts in each of his four starts this season.
Ohtani is 0-1 with a 7.71 ERA in three career starts against the Astros. His last pitching appearance at Minute Maid Park was Sept. 2, 2018.
Right-hander Lance McCullers Jr. (2-1, 3.58 ERA) will start for the Astros on Tuesday. He did not factor into the decision in his last outing after allowing three runs on six hits with eight strikeouts over six innings in the Astros’ 7-4 victory to the New York Yankees on May 6.
McCullers has held opponents to a .172 batting average and is facing the Angels for the second time this season and 15th time in his career. He is 3-3 with a 3.20 ERA in his career against the Angels but is winless over his last seven starts against them.
The Angels victimized Astros starter Luis Garcia in the sixth inning Monday. Jared Walsh and Justin Upton struck back-to-back home runs to ignite a four-run rally, both off cutters, a pitch Garcia continues to refine and one that he said he rarely misses with inside, as he did against Upton.
Garcia threw 11 cut fastballs Monday. He didn’t generate one swing and miss with the pitch.
“It was working for him early in the game and he said he wanted to throw some more of them,” Astros catcher Jason Castro said. “The one to Walsh was actually a pretty good pitch. The one I think he wants back is the one to J-Up (Upton). It backed up to the middle of the plate just where he likes it. Other than a couple of pitches he had a nice outing.”
–Field Level Media