MLB Baseball

Final 1 2 3   4 5 6   7 8 9   R H E
LA Angels0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 020
Houston0 0 0 0 0 0 3 0 x 330
  W: J. Verlander (14-8)   L: Y. Petit (5-2)   S: K. Giles (33)
5:10 PM PT6:10 PM MT7:10 PM CT8:10 PM ET20:10 ET0:10 GMT8:10 5:10 PM MST7:10 PM EST7:40 PM VEN4:10 UAE (+1)7:10 PM CT, September 22, 2017
Minute Maid Park, Houston, Texas  Attendance: 34,127

Gurriel's blast fuels Verlander, Astros past Angels

(Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

(TSX / STATS) -- HOUSTON -- Los Angeles Angels right-hander Garrett Richards was so overwhelmingly dominant on Friday night that the best course of action for the Houston Astros was to patiently wait for Richards to hit his predetermined pitch count and then take their hacks against the Angels' vulnerable bullpen.

After Richards departed, first baseman Yuli Gurriel slugged a three-run homer in the seventh inning, lifting Justin Verlander into the win column for the fourth time in four starts and pushing the Astros to a 3-0 victory over the reeling Angels at Minute Maid Park.

Gurriel cranked his 18th home run of the season out to left-center field, capitalizing on the absence of Richards and the first legitimate break the Astros (94-59) generated on the evening.

Richards handcuffed Houston for six innings, but when he ceded the mound to right-handed reliever Yusmeiro Petit, the Astros took advantage. Petit (5-2) surrendered a leadoff single to Jose Altuve and a one-out walk to Alex Bregman before Gurriel delivered the decisive blow.

"I know they've had to tax their bullpen quite a bit and they're grinding for their own opportunities to get to the playoffs," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "Getting Richards out of the game is key (as was) trying to attack a bullpen and get any opportunity because neither pitcher was really conceding anything. It was impossible to get any offense going either side."

Verlander (14-8) was stellar, limiting the Angels (76-77), who dropped their fifth consecutive game to fall 3 1/2 games behind the Minnesota Twins for the second American League wild card, to one hit and two walks over seven scoreless innings. He improved to 4-0 with an 0.64 ERA with Houston and, with six strikeouts, upped his career total to 2,405 to surpass Dennis Eckersley for 42nd place in major league history.

"Of course I did," Verlander said when asked if he smiled following the Gurriel home run. "You're kind of out there grinding, giving everything you've got and for your teammate to hit a big homer and not only put the team ahead but give you the opportunity to win a ballgame, for all reasons those are great moments. So, of course I was smiling big."

Richards pitched brilliantly in his previous matchup against Verlander and the Astros, surrendering just one run on four hits and a walk over five innings. But with Verlander delivering a vintage performance that night, Richards was the hard-luck loser in a 1-0 contest.

He was even better this time around, allowing just one hit -- a one-out double by Josh Reddick in the first inning. Richards retired the next 10 batters he faced and, after walking Marwin Gonzalez with two outs in the fourth, set down in order his final seven batters of the game.

"It's not like we were facing an average Joe over there either," Richards said of Verlander. "That guy has plenty of accolades that speak volumes to his time in the big leagues. Anytime you go against a guy like that, you have to be on your game."

But with the Angels nursing the injury-ravaged Richards back to optimal health, his night was capped at six innings and 85 pitches. And with Verlander matching Richards scoreless inning for scoreless inning, the Angels bullpen blinked first and negated the excellence Richards produced.

"Garrett was tremendous," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Obviously, his line score is terrific, but from an execution point of view, he made his pitches. He pitched efficient, he pitched effective. He really shut down a really good lineup for six innings."

NOTES: Astros RHP Lance McCullers will make his first start since Sept. 6 and just his second since July 30 on Sunday in the series finale against the Angels. McCullers has been slowed by back discomfort and arm fatigue over the past two-plus months, and will be monitored closely, inning by inning, during his return to the rotation. ... Angels 3B Yunel Escobar will conclude the batting practice portion of his rehab in Southern California this weekend before traveling to Arizona to face live pitching on Sunday or Monday. Escobar landed on the 10-day disabled list on Aug. 8 with a Grade 1 right oblique strain. ... Astros RHP Brad Peacock will have his next start pushed back for extra rest in advance of his pending postseason assignment. Peacock has made a career-high 33 appearances this season, including 20 starts.

Updated September 23, 2017

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