Sports Minute: Astros outlast Angels 6-5 in 11; Ohtani has arm discomfort
By GREG BEACHAMAP Sports Writer
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — The Houston Astros didn't even need to lift their bats from their shoulders to chase Shohei Ohtani from another wild performance in the second inning.
Almost four hours later, Ohtani provided another worry for Angels fans when the two-way star said he felt discomfort in his pitching arm after his first home mound start since returning from Tommy John surgery.
Alex Bregman hit an RBI single in the 11th inning, Blake Taylor escaped two bases-loaded jams to earn his first major league victory in his hometown stadium, and the Astros rallied for a 6-5 victory over Los Angeles on Sunday.
Before those two dramatic extra innings, Ohtani started the day by issuing five walks and getting only five outs before getting pulled from his second rough start of the season. Afterward, the Angels sent Ohtani to get an MRI on his pitching arm, raising concern for a player who has worked his way back diligently from elbow ligament replacement surgery in late 2018.
“That first inning was outstanding,” said Angels manager Joe Maddon, who apparently wasn't aware Ohtani was headed for an MRI during his postgame interview. “Velocity was up. He looked very comfortable. I saw some positive signs with him.”
Those positive signs won't mean much if Ohtani has another injury setback. Any sustained absence would be a double blow to the struggling Angels, who use Ohtani as their designated hitter on most days between his pitching starts.
After a strong eight-pitch first inning, Ohtani walked his first three batters of the second. He struck out Houston’s next two hitters, but walked Dustin Garneau and George Springer to force in runs.
Maddon pulled Ohtani after he had thrown 42 pitches in the second and his velocity flagged. Before the injury news, it looked like mild progress: Ohtani failed to get an out last weekend in Oakland while facing six batters in his first start since 2018.
Bregman also homered for the Astros, and Josh Reddick delivered the tying RBI single in the ninth as Houston took two of three at Angel Stadium.
Taylor (1-0), an Orange County native, retired Brian Goodwin on a soft fly to center with the bases loaded to end his first major league victory.
"It’s a funny thing to go out to an old place I used to watch games and get a win for the other team," said Taylor, a Dana Hills High School product. “Angel Stadium will have a special place in my heart. So many childhood memories, but now (one) from my adult life. Hopefully I have a long career and play many teams here.”
Albert Pujols hit a grand slam for the Angels in the third inning. The shot off Josh James was his 658th career homer, pulling him within two of Willie Mays for fifth place in baseball history.
But the Astros' injury-plagued pitching staff came up big for the rest of the day.
“We got some great work from our bullpen,” Houston manager Dusty Baker said. “We needed this game badly. We certainly didn’t want to go below .500. We’re all tired. We need a day off tomorrow.”
Framber Valdez relieved James in the fourth and tossed six scoreless innings for the Astros before the Angels scored with their automatic runner in the 10th. Valdez’s 6 1/3 innings was the longest relief outing by an Astros pitcher since 1994.
Both teams scored in the 10th, with Kyle Tucker advancing on two fly balls in the Astros' hitless half. Michael Hermosillo drove in Anthony Rendon with a leadoff single for the Angels, but Matt Thaiss took a called third strike from Taylor with two outs and the bases loaded.
Bregman drove in automatic runner George Springer in the 11th with Houston's only extra-inning hit. The Angels loaded the bases in the bottom half with two walks, but Taylor finished strong.
Jacob Barnes (0-2) pitched two innings of one-hit relief for the Angels.
Ty Buttrey had the most disappointing performance out of the Angels' struggling bullpen, which has blown five saves in 10 games. Michael Brantley led off the ninth with a double, and pinch-runner Myles Straw scored on Reddick's single.
The grand slam was the 15th of Pujols' career and his first since June 2017. He has hit 60 homers against the Astros, the most by any opponent.
The Astros got help in the 10th when Taylor Ward made a tough catch on Carlos Correa’s leadoff drive to right, but then apparently forgot about the automatic runner on second and took his time returning the ball to the infield, allowing Tucker to tag up.
Astros: Closer Roberto Osuna went on the injured list with right elbow soreness and flew back to Houston for an MRI exam. He abruptly left Houston's loss Saturday in the ninth inning.
Angels: 2B Tommy La Stella sat for the second straight day with a stiff neck.
Astros: Baker hasn't said who will start Tuesday night when the Astros open a three-game series at Arizona.
Angels: Maddon hasn't said who will take the mound Tuesday night in Seattle to open a six-game road trip.
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