Gonzalez hits grand slam, Keuchel solid in Astros’ win
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — The Houston Astros insist the AL West is the premier division in baseball. They’re doing their part to show it, too.
Marwin Gonzalez hit a grand slam and Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa also homered to lead the Astros to a 9-3 win over the Los Angeles Angels on Friday night.
Dallas Keuchel (10-10) allowed two runs and five hits in seven innings, striking out six and walking two.
The defending World Series champions have won three straight and four of their last five games to maintain a 1 1/2-game lead over Oakland.
“It’s the AL West, we’ve got the best division in baseball I think by far,” Keuchel said. “It’s really not an easy road any time you face big-league hitting. ... You never take anything lightly. You’re always appreciative of a quality outing.”
Keuchel is steadily improving as the season has progressed. He’s 7-2 with a 2.61 ERA in his last 13 starts.
“It’s nice,” Keuchel said. “Nobody likes losing. I was 3-8 at one point. I’ll take 10-10 for sure. Beggars can’t be choosers. It’s nice to get wins. Everyone talks about the win being discontinued and it’s not that relevant, but it is. It’s the first thing people look at and it’s the last thing people look at. Nobody wants to lose. I’m competitive enough to want to win every time out. When I don’t, it frustrates me and usually fuels me more.”
Gonzalez hit his second career grand slam. His shot to left field came off Andrew Heaney in the fifth inning gave the Astros a 5-0 lead. Altuve hit his 10th home run and Correa his 14th. Both were solo shots.
Gonzalez is hitting .329 with seven home runs and 16 RBIs in his last 19 games.
“We have been swinging the bat better as a team,” Gonzalez said. “I think that’s contagious, too. We went through a rough time two weeks ago when we couldn’t score runs. It’s been better lately.”
Mike Trout returned to the lineup and tripled on the first pitch in his first at-bat of his first game back following the death of his brother-in-law, Aaron Cox. It’s players weekend, and instead of a nickname, Trout wore “A. Cox” on the back of his jersey.
There was a moment of silence before the game for Cox, who was drafted by the Angels and had recently retired before his death.
“It was good to get back on the field,” Trout said. “It was tough. I was fighting emotions tonight. Obviously, coming back yesterday I was emotionally drained the last couple of days.”
Asked if this was the toughest game of his career, Trout said: “It was. My brother came out here but the family is back home. Every so often, you can’t help but think about it. He was a friend of mine and obviously my brother-in-law, but we were really close.”
Trout was on the disabled list with a wrist injury when Cox, 24, died. Trout played in his first game since Aug. 1.
Keuchel wore the name “David Burd” on his jersey, a tribute to the Astros’ longtime clubhouse assistant.
Heaney (7-8) allowed five runs and eight hits in six innings.
Rookie Taylor Ward hit a two-run homer to left field in the seventh inning for the second home run of his Angels career.
The Angels have lost six of their last seven games.
ONE MILLION REASONS
Justin Verlander was tagged with a hefty lunch bill from the Cabana Cafe in The Beverly Hills Hotel on Friday. Verlander posted a picture of the receipt, in which a staffer jokingly charged him 1 million for being a “Dodger killer” in addition to his lunch selections. Verlander and the Houston Astros beat the Dodgers in seven games to win the World Series last year. Verlander wrote on Instagram: ”#BeverlyHillsHotel really making me pay for that World Series win” with laughing emojis.
ANOTHER SLAM, PLEASE
Gonzalez’s slam was the Astros’ sixth this season, which ties a franchise record for third-most in a season. The record is seven, set by the 2001 and 2007 Astros teams.
Astros: OF George Springer (quadriceps) was available to pinch hit Friday. ... OF Jake Marisnick (groin) began a rehab stint at Triple-A Fresno on Friday. He was 2 for 4 with solo home run and a double.
Angels: RHP/DH Shohei Ohtani (strained right elbow) is scheduled to throw another bullpen session on Saturday. .... LHP Tyler Skaggs (left adductor strain) and RHP Nick Tropeano (right shoulder inflammation) played catch Friday.
Astros: RHP Verlander (12-8, 2.65 ERA) earned his 200th win in his last start. He is 2-2 with a 5.57 ERA in August.
Angels: RHP Jaime Barria (8-7, 3.41) is 3-0 with a 2.36 ERA over his last three starts following an 0-6 stretch before that.