Houston splits the series

Correa's ninth-inning homer lifts Astros over Angels

Astros Carlos Correa
Carlos Correa's first home run of the season was a big one. Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Carlos Correa's first home run of the season was a big one.

With their first loss in the books, the Astros returned to Angel Stadium on Tuesday afternoon to try and end their opening road trip with a win to split the two-game set with the Angels and move back into sole possession of first place in the AL West. They had their current ace, Zack Greinke, on the mound to try and get it done.

Greinke did his part, providing seven innings of two-run baseball. It would take a late spark to get the job done for Houston, though, as the game stayed tied for most of the afternoon.

Final Score: Astros 4, Angels 2

Astros' Record: 5-1, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Ryan Pressly (1-0)

Losing Pitcher: Raisel Iglesias (1-1)

Both teams trade two-run innings early

In this game, the Angels would get on the board first. In the bottom of the first inning against Greinke, Shohei Ohtani reached on an infield single, setting up a two-run homer by Mike Trout to make it a 2-0 Los Angeles advantage. The Astros responded quickly, getting back-to-back solo shots by Kyle Tucker and Aledmys Diaz to tie the game in the top of the second.



Both starters settle in as game stays tied

The teams stayed gridlocked 2-2 as both Greinke and Angels starter Dylan Bundy settled in over the next several innings. Bundy would keep Houston off the board through six innings while striking out ten, giving way to the bullpen starting in the seventh. Greinke, meanwhile, was able to complete seven innings, allowing just two hits after the first inning. His final line: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 96 P.

Correa's clutch home run seals the deal

Ryan Pressly would take over for Greinke to try and keep the game tied in the bottom of the eighth. He did so, working around a two-out single to send the tied game to the ninth. Houston would finally break the stalemate, with Yordan Alvarez leading off the top of the ninth with a broken-bat single, setting up Carlos Correa's first home run of the season, a two-run shot to give the Astros their first lead of the day, 4-2.


Pressly remained on the mound in the bottom of the ninth for a rare two-inning outing and would earn the win by erasing a one-out single to end the game, splitting the short two-game series. The victory also put the Astros back in sole possession of first place in the AL West.

Up Next: Houston will travel back home for an off-day tomorrow before their home opener Thursday night. They'll get to face the A's for three more, with the opener starting at 7:10 PM Central and featuring Cole Irvin (0-1, 8.31 ERA) on the mound for Oakland and Cristian Javier (0-0, 4.91 ERA) making his second start for the Astros.

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The Astros have their work cut out for them. Composite Getty Image.

Through 20 games, the Houston Astros have managed just six wins and are in last place in the AL West.

Their pitching staff trails only Colorado with a 5.24 ERA and big-money new closer Josh Hader has given up the same number of earned runs in 10 games as he did in 61 last year.

Despite this, these veteran Astros, who have reached the AL Championship Series seven consecutive times, have no doubt they’ll turn things around.

“If there’s a team that can do it, it’s this team,” shortstop Jeremy Peña said.

First-year manager Joe Espada, who was hired in January to replace the retired Dusty Baker, discussed his team’s early struggles.

“It’s not ideal,” he said. “It’s not what we expected, to come out of the shoot playing this type of baseball. But you know what, this is where we’re at and we’ve got to pick it up and play better. That’s just the bottom line.”

Many of Houston’s problems have stemmed from a poor performance by a rotation that has been decimated by injuries. Ace Justin Verlander and fellow starter José Urquidy haven’t pitched this season because of injuries and lefty Framber Valdez made just two starts before landing on the injured list with a sore elbow.

Ronel Blanco, who threw a no-hitter in his season debut April 1, has pitched well and is 2-0 with a 0.86 ERA in three starts this season. Cristian Javier is also off to a good start, going 2-0 with a 1.54 ERA in four starts, but the team has won just two games not started by those two pitchers.

However, Espada wouldn’t blame the rotation for Houston’s current position.

“It’s been a little bit of a roller coaster how we've played overall,” he said. “One day we get good starting pitching, some days we don’t. The middle relief has been better and sometimes it hasn’t been. So, we’ve just got to put it all together and then play more as a team. And once we start doing that, we’ll be in good shape.”

The good news for the Astros is that Verlander will make his season debut Friday night when they open a series at Washington and Valdez should return soon after him.

“Framber and Justin have been a great part of our success in the last few years,” second baseman Jose Altuve said. “So, it’s always good to have those two guys back helping the team. We trust them and I think it’s going to be good.”

Hader signed a five-year, $95 million contract this offseason to give the Astros a shutdown 7-8-9 combination at the back end of their bullpen with Bryan Abreu and Ryan Pressly. But the five-time All-Star is off to a bumpy start.

He allowed four runs in the ninth inning of a 6-1 loss to the Braves on Monday night and has yielded eight earned runs this season after giving up the same number in 56 1/3 innings for San Diego last year.

He was much better Wednesday when he struck out the side in the ninth before the Astros fell to Atlanta in 10 innings for their third straight loss.

Houston’s offense, led by Altuve, Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker, ranks third in the majors with a .268 batting average and is tied for third with 24 homers this season. But the Astros have struggled with runners in scoring position and often failed to get a big hit in close games.

While many of Houston’s hitters have thrived this season, one notable exception is first baseman José Abreu. The 37-year-old, who is in the second year of a three-year, $58.5 million contract, is hitting 0.78 with just one extra-base hit in 16 games, raising questions about why he remains in the lineup every day.

To make matters worse, his error on a routine ground ball in the eighth inning Wednesday helped the Braves tie the game before they won in extra innings.

Espada brushed off criticism of Abreu and said he knows the 2020 AL MVP can break out of his early slump.

“Because (of) history,” Espada said. “The back of his baseball card. He can do it.”

Though things haven’t gone well for the Astros so far, everyone insists there’s no panic in this team which won its second World Series in 2022.

Altuve added that he doesn’t have to say anything to his teammates during this tough time.

“I think they’ve played enough baseball to know how to control themselves and how to come back to the plan we have, which is winning games,” he said.

The clubhouse was quiet and somber Wednesday after the Astros suffered their third series sweep of the season and second at home. While not panicking about the slow start, this team, which has won at least 90 games in each of the last three seasons, is certainly not happy with its record.

“We need to do everything better,” third baseman Alex Bregman said. “I feel like we’re in a lot of games, but we just haven’t found a way to win them. And good teams find a way to win games. So we need to find a way to win games.”

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