Houston takes the opener against LA

Astros' big inning pushes them over the top against Angels

Alex Bregman was 3-for-4 with 4 RBI in Friday's game against the Angels. Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images

After winning the series by taking two of three against the Mariners earlier in the week to keep their lead in the AL West intact, the Astros welcomed in a more beatable AL West foe on Friday in the Angels. They would endure some back-and-forth early in the game, ultimately using a big inning to take the opener.

Final Score: Astros 10, Angels 5

Astros' Record: 82-58, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Framber Valdez (10-5)

Losing Pitcher: Shohei Ohtani (9-2)

Teams trade runs early

There were plenty of runs to go around in the early stages of Friday's opener, with the Angels tagging Framber Valdez with an unusually poor start. They knocked solo homers in each the first and the second, with Shohei Ohtani starting the scoring in the top of the first with his to put the Angels in front 1-0.

The Astros put together a three-run go-ahead inning in the third, getting three straight two-out RBI hits: a single by Alex Bregman, a double by Yordan Alvarez, and then a single by Carlos Correa to grab a 3-2 lead. Los Angeles responded in the top of the fourth, retaking the lead with two RBI of their own against Valdez to make it 4-3. Valdez would go on to finish one more inning, with the Angels scoring another run on an error, finishing his night. His final line: 5.0 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 5 BB, 6 K, 2 HR, 97 P.

Houston scores six in the fourth

Valdez would still leave in line for the win despite the poor start, thanks to a huge fourth inning by his offense. They started by knocking Ohtani out of the game, putting two on base before getting a game-tying RBI single by Jose Altuve.

Both of Ohtani's runners would eventually score as the Angels' bullpen would give up a two-RBI double to Alex Bregman to give Houston the lead, then later allowed a run on catcher's interference and an RBI single by Aledmys Diaz, who started the frame by being hit by a pitch. The game remained at 9-5 until the bottom of the seventh, when Alex Bregman would get a one-out sac fly to put Houston at double digits, 10-5.

Astros take the opener

As far as Houston's bullpen went, Phil Maton entered to relieve Valdez in the top of the sixth, working around a one-out single for a scoreless inning. Brooks Raley was next, and he lasted two innings, both scoreless, to get through the seventh and eighth. Ryne Stanek took over in the top of the ninth and erased a leadoff single to finish Houston's win. The victory puts them in line for yet another series victory and keeps their lead in the division put as they start to consider their magic number as September reaches its mid-point.

Up Next: The middle game of this three-game series will have a start time of 6:10 PM Central on Saturday. The pitching matchup is expected to be Jose Suarez (6-7, 3.74 ERA) for Los Angeles and Luis Garcia (10-6, 3.29 ERA) for Houston.

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The Marlins are showing interest in Yuli Gurriel. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images.

As the reporting date for pitchers and catchers draws near, there are still some decisions hanging over the Astros. One of them is whether or not to bring back Yuli Gurriel. “La Piña,” as he's affectionately called, is 38 years old. He turns 39 in June. His leadership and instincts cannot be matched. The man has seen a ton of baseball and comes from a family of baseballers. So, what's the holdup?

Enter the Miami Marlins. The ownership group, led by Bruce Sherman, is undoubtedly trying to capitalize on the heavy Cuban population in the Miami area. Bringing in the Cuban Babe Ruth is a great way to attempt to get more fan engagement. The franchise has only been to the playoffs three times. First two times (1997 and 2003), they won it all. In 2020, they were swept in the NLDS. They're most likely offering him a ridiculous amount of money to come to a team with a losing history. Knowing the Marlins are willing to hand out stupid money, would you blame La Piña for taking one last ridiculous payday?

Think about it. He's got two rings and made a ton of money. He can safely retire very comfortably. The lure to come back for another year or two would definitely be about money. The Marlins aren't a real threat in the next couple of seasons to do anything, but are willing to pay me like I'm still a star? Plus, I'm closer to my home country with all my family and friends? Sign me up!

This is where the Astros have to make a decision. Bring Yuli back for another year or move on. If he follows through with his last four years, this should be a bounce back year. Since 2016, his first year in Houston and MLB, he's hit .262, .299, .291, .298, .232 (pandemic shortened season), .319, and .242 last season. The man is a professional hitter. He knows how to work an at-bat and can drive pitchers nuts. His defense isn't bad either. He's a more than capable first baseman.

This won't win me any favor, but I think it's time to move on. Yuli will always have a place in my heart because he was a major factor in the Astros' two World Series wins. Last season's title run was even more satisfying since it helped silence the haters. That was the mouthwash that got rid of the stench of the sign stealing scandal. Piña was there through it all.

Now, it's time to start transitioning towards the future. Piña, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Justin Verlander, and Lance McCullers Jr were the only holdovers from the 2017 team. Verlander was one of the guys the Mets backed the Brinks truck up for this offseason. Altuve (32), Bregman (28), and McCullers (29) should be all that's left of that group. While it would've been great to have Verlander (39) back, the emergence of the youth movement in the pitching staff made his loss somewhat expendable. At some point, the nostalgia wears off. Father Time and Mother Nature are both undefeated. If they were to bring Piña back, he should be a part timer transitioning into a hitting coach. Careers come to an end. It's time to start looking at his exit.

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