HOUSTON (AP) — Martín Maldonado homered twice and Jose Altuve, Kyle Tucker and Chas McCormick added a home run each as the Houston Astros built a big lead early and didn’t let up in a 9-1 rout of the Los Angeles Angels on Saturday.
Houston was up 5-0 after two innings.
“That’s what was eluding us early in the season. We weren’t scoring early," manager Dusty Baker said. “When you score early it relaxes the pitcher and it relaxes our offense."
The Astros followed up their 8-1 win in the opener with another lopsided victory to extend their winning streak to five games.
Houston starter José Urquidy (7-3) yielded two hits and a run with eight strikeouts in six innings to improve the team’s starters to 7-0 in the last nine games. This was the fifth straight game where the Astros allowed no more than one run.
The Astros were already up 3-0 when Maldonado, who had just one hit in his previous four games, connected off Patrick Sandoval (3-3) to start the second inning.
Houston led by four in the sixth when Maldonado hit the first pitch from Andrew Wantz over the wall in straightaway center field to make it 6-1. It was the fourth multi-homer game of Maldonado’s career and his first since 2019.
While Maldonado was certainly happy with his big day at the plate Saturday, he takes much more pride in the work he does with the pitching staff as Houston's everyday catcher.
“I’m doing what I’m supposed to do and taking care of my pitchers and that’s my No. 1 priority," he said. “Do I get excited when I have a day like this? Yeah, but for me it’s even better to go 0 for 4 with a win than 4 for 4 with a loss."
Four pitches later, Altuve gave Houston back-to-back homers when he hit an opposite field shot to the seats in right field.
Aaron Loup took over for Wantz to start the 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 that extended 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.
“Just losing my posture up there," Trout said. “It makes my swing long. Just grinding through some stuff with the lower half. It’ll be all right.”
Sandoval allowed eight hits and five runs while tying a season-high with nine strikeouts in five innings for his second straight loss.
“Sandoval is a really good pitcher, obviously," Altuve said. “That’s why we tried to swing early today. He has good pitches, good changeups especially. And just to be able to score five runs in two innings and set the tone right there was good for us."
Yordan Alvarez, named AL player of the month Saturday, returned after missing two games following a nasty outfield collision with Jeremy Peña Wednesday. He went 0 for 4 with a walk.
Tucker singled to score Altuve and put Houston up 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 the Houston second with his shot to 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: Los Angeles signed INF Jonathan Villar, who was designated for assignment by the Cubs earlier this week. C Matt Thaiss was optioned to Triple-A to make a spot on the active roster for Villar and RHP Archie Bradley (elbow fracture) was moved to the 60-day injured list to make a spot for Villar on the 40-man roster.
Astros: Pitching coach Bill Murphy entered health and safety protocols. He joined bench coach Joe Espada, first base coach Omar Lopez and quality control coach Dan Firova, who entered the protocols Thursday. Minor league pitching coordinator Eric Niesen joined the team to fill in for Murphy.
HOME SWEET HOME
Altuve is hitting .346 with nine doubles, eight homers and a 1.066 OPS at home this season. His home OPS ranks third in the majors and his batting average at home is 6th in MLB.
Houston LHP Framber Valdez (8-3, 2.65 ERA) opposes LHP José Suárez (1-2, 4.36) when the series concludes Sunday.
More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Kristie Rieken, The Associated Press