Martin Maldonado homered twice and Jose AltuveKyle Tucker and Chas McCormick each added a home run as the Houston Astros built a big lead early and didn’t stop in a 9-1 route from the Angels on Saturday.
Houston led 5-0 after two innings.
“We missed that early in the season – we didn’t score early,” said manager Dusty Baker. “If you score early, it relaxes the pitcher and relaxes our attack.”
The Astros followed their 8-1 win in Friday night’s series opener with another lopsided win to extend their winning streak to five games.
Houston appetizer Jose Urquidy (7-3) yielded two hits and a run and struckout eight batters in six innings to improve the team’s starters to 7-0 in the last nine games. This was the fifth game in a row in which the Astros gave up no more than one run.
The Astros were already leading 3-0 when Maldonado, who had only one hit in his previous four games, connected Patrick Sandoval (3-3) to start the second inning.
Houston led four in the sixth when Maldonado hit the first pitch of Andrew Wantz over the wall in midfield to make it 6-1. It was the fourth multi-home game in Maldonado’s career and his first since 2019.
While Maldonado was certainly happy with his big day at the plate Saturday, he is much more proud of the work he does with the pitching staff as Houston’s daily catcher.
“I do what I have to do and take care of my pitchers, and that is my number 1 priority,” he said. “Do I get excited when I have a day like this? Yes, but for me it’s even better to go 0 for 4 with a win than four for four with a loss.”
Four pitches later, Altuve gave Houston back-to-back homeruns when he hit a shot from the opposite field to the seats in right field.
Aaron Loup took over for Wantz to start seventh and was greeted with Tucker’s home run to right field. There were two outs when McCormick homered for the second consecutive game with his drive lifting the lead to 9-1.
Taylor Ward hit a solo home run in the third for the Angels, who continue to struggle offensively.
Angels star Mike Trout went 0 for 4 with four strikeouts. He is 0 for 7 with seven strikeouts in this series.
“I’m just losing my attitude up there,” Trout said. “It makes my swing long. Just chopping things up with the bottom half. You’ll be fine.”
Sandoval gave up eight basehits and five runs, while reaching a season high with nine strikeouts in five innings for his second consecutive loss.
“Sandoval is of course a very good pitcher,” said Altuve. “That’s why we tried to swing early today. He has good pitches, especially good substitutions. And to be able to score five runs in two innings and set the tone there was good for us.”
Yordan Alvarez, Saturday’s American League Player of the Month, returned after missing two games after a nasty in-field clash with Jeremy Pena on Wednesday. He went 0 for 4 with a walk.
Tucker singled to score Altuve and give Houston 1-0 in the first. Yuli Gurriel walked to load the bases before a single by Jake Meyers scored two to make it 3-0.
Maldonado opened up second place in Houston with his shot on the train tracks atop the left field wall.
Altuve, who had three hits, doubled and stole third base with one out in the inning. He scored on Alex Bregman’s two-out single to make it 5-0.
Angels: The team hired infielder Jonathan Villar, who was assigned for assignment by the Cubs earlier in the week. Catcher Matt Thaiss was given the option to triple A to make a spot on the active roster for Villar, and righthander Archie Bradley (elbow fracture) was moved to the 60-day injured list to clear a spot for Villar on the 40-man roster.
Astros: Pitching coach Bill Murphy has health and safety protocols in place. He joined bench coach Joe Espada, first base coach Omar Lopez and quality control coach Dan Firova, who entered the protocols on Thursday. Minor league pitching coordinator Eric Niesen joined the team to replace Murphy.
East West home is best
Altuve hits .346 this season with nine doubles, eight homeruns and a 1,066 on-base-plus-slugging percentage at home. His home OPS is third in the majors and his home batting average is sixth.
Houston left-hander Framber Valdez (8-3, 2.65 ERA) opposes Angels left-hander Jose Suarez (1-2, 4.36) when the series ends on Sunday.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times†