Verlander, Bats Attack Angels 8-3

Still time for dancing
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Saturday's 8-3 triumph by the Astros over the Angels of Los Angeles at Anaheim was a play in three acts:

Act I: Alex Bregman jumps on Angels starter Jaime Barria with a leadoff double in the first followed by Jose Altuve's RBI single. Two outs later, Marwin Gonzalez and Yuli Gurriel cracked back-to-back doubles for two more runs for an early 3-0 lead. In the third, Gurriel spanks a second RBI double to plate Altuve although Gonzalez is thrown out at the plate. 4-0, Houston.

Act II: Justin Verlander, whose new nickname "Dodger Killer" is an upgrade over his last one "Mister Upton", has tossed three scoreless frames but that changes in the fourth when Mike Trout pokes a single then Shohei "The Money" Ohtani knocks one out to center field for a two-run homer. In the sixth, Trout singles again and this time he scores on a triple from Andrelton Simmons. 4-3, Houston.

Act III Verlander is done for the night and the one-run lead looks shaky. Not as shaky as the Angels' bullpen as Ty Buttrey (nickname "T-Butt") gives way to Justin Anderson (nickname "Ando") in the seventh who plunks Altuve yet holds Houston scoreless. In the eighth, Gonzalez greets Williams Jerez with his 14th homer of the year then the Astros pour it on when Josh Reddick and Tony Kemp single ahead of an RBI double by Bregman. Then two runs come home on Taylor Ward's throwing error to cement the 8-3 final.

Oakland and Seattle both won so Houston's win gained no ground on the AL West chasers. It was, however, their fourth straight win and earned another winning road trip (5-3) as their 46-21 road record (.687) continues to amaze.

A Snowflake-Era beanball war erupted late as Altuve was hit in the arm in the seventh and Roberto Osuna earned some new teammate cred by hitting Ohtani in the eighth drawing the obligatory warning to both benches. When Deck McGuire plunked Gurriel in the leg in the ninth, McGuire and his manager, Mike Scioscia, were ejected.

Framber Valdez (1-0), who impressed with over four innings of quality relief in Seattle, will make his first big-league start Sunday as he pitches against righthander Felix Pena (1-3) in the 3:07 p.m. Central finale. Afterwards, the Astros jump back into head-to-head pennant race as Oakland comes to town for three followed by a visit from the Angels.

- Bob Hulsey