The Angels do not have a patent on ninth-inning magic. After scoring winning runs in their final at-bats in their first four victories of the season, they absorbed a last-round knockout at the hands of the Houston Astros on Tuesday afternoon.
Yordan Alvarez muscled a shattered-bat single to left field to lead off the ninth, and Carlos Correa drove a 96-mph fastball from closer Raisel Iglesias for a two-run homer to right-center field to lift Houston to a 4-2 victory in Angel Stadium.
Correa celebrated the tiebreaking homer by pointing at his team’s dugout as he rounded first base. Iglesias, the hard-throwing right-hander acquired from Cincinnati over the winter, has given up two homers in the 20 batters he has faced this season after yielding one homer to 91 batters faced in 2020.
Astros closer Ryan Pressly threw a scoreless eighth and got Justin Upton to ground into a game-ending double play in the ninth to notch a win and a save.
Angels starter Dylan Bundy recovered from a two-homer second to complete six innings in which he gave up two runs and four hits, struck out 10 and walked two. Of his 102 pitches, 73 were strikes — 26 of them called strikes and 14 swinging strikes.
Astros ace Zack Greinke delivered a similar start, the veteran right-hander rebounding from a two-run first to throw seven innings in which he yielded two runs and five hits, struck out four and walked one.
Angels reliever Aaron Slegers threw a one-two-three seventh, and Mike Mayers retired the side in order in the eighth before yielding to Iglesias.
The Angels took a 2-0 lead in the first when Shohei Ohtani beat out a dribbler down the first base line for a single and stole second, and Mike Trout absolutely pulverized a 2-and-2 hanging slider from Greinke.
Trout’s two-run homer left his bat at 113 mph and traveled 464 feet to left-center field, the fifth-longest shot of his career, the ball so thoroughly struck that Ohtani turned at second and raised his right hand as if to wave goodbye to the baseball.
The lead evaporated within a three-pitch span of the second when Kyle Tucker hit an 0-and-2 slider from Bundy into the right-center-field seats for a solo homer and Aledmys Diaz lined an 0-and-1 slider over the left-field wall to pull Houston even 2-2.
Bundy quickly regained his footing, leaning heavily on his well-placed fastballs to strike out six of the next 12 batters and not give up another hit through the fifth.
Trouble arose in the sixth when Alex Bregman dunked a one-out single to right and the left-handed-hitting Alvarez fisted a ground ball inside the third base bag and through a shifted infield for a double to put runners on second and third.
But Bundy preserved the tie by getting Correa to lunge at a down-and-away, 0-and-2 slider, producing a popout to second, and blowing a 95-mp fastball by Tucker for strike three.
For the second straight game, a reduced-capacity crowd of 11,122 jeered and heckled the Astros, who were playing in front of Southern California fans for the first time since their 2017 sign-stealing scandal and trash-can-banging scheme became public in November 2019.
It wasn’t as hostile as Monday night, when play was stopped twice because of trash cans — one inflatable, one real and filled with crushed-up cans and empty bottles.
But as they came off the field each inning, the Astros were greeted by a fan nine rows behind their dugout who was dressed as Oscar the Grouch, the furry, lime-green Sesame Street character who lives in a trash can, and holding a sign that read: “TRASH STROS.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.