ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Alex Bregman faces ample challenges heading into this season with the Houston Astros. Along with every player’s short spring preparations, he also has to get used to playing alongside rookie shortstop Jeremy Peña after five remarkable years next to veteran Carlos Correa.
The Astros star third baseman still started out superbly in the season-opening series for the defending AL champions.
Bregman put the Astros ahead with a two-run single in the fifth, and José Urquidy yielded four hits over five innings in Houston’s 4-1 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday.
Bregman began life after Correa by going 6 for 14 with two homers and driving in six runs in Houston’s first four games. His two-out, two-RBI single off reliever Austin Warren in the finale ended up being the decisive hit as Houston took three of four from its AL West rivals.
“I feel pretty good,” Bregman said. “Just getting the timing squared away. Haven’t got that many at-bats yet, but doing all right. I was just able to put some good swings on it.”
Chas McCormick had a late RBI single, and Peña delivered three hits while the Astros dominated at Angel Stadium yet again.
“You’re starting to get a little worried there,” manager Dusty Baker said of the Astros’ 13 consecutive scoreless innings before their fifth-inning breakout Sunday. “Our pitching held us until our offense could do something, and today most of our offense was Breggy.”
Jack Mayfield homered against his former team for the Angels, but they scored more than two runs just once in the four-game series — and that was late in a blowout loss Friday.
“We have to be more offensive consistently against the entire division, not just Houston,” Los Angeles manager Joe Maddon said. “But by no means am I discouraged. … Don’t be deceived: We’re very close to Houston. I like the way we played a lot. I like our energy a lot. There’s certain things we’ve got to get better at, but we’re very close to beating that team.”
Urquidy (1-0) built on his solid 2021 with five resourceful innings, walking one and striking out two. Ryan Pressly pitched the ninth for his second save.
José Suarez (0-1) pitched two-hit ball into the fifth inning for Los Angeles, but yielded four walks and two runs before the Halos’ bullpen had another inconsistent afternoon.
Mayfield homered leading off the second inning for Los Angeles while filling in for resting Anthony Rendon at third base and in the cleanup spot.
But the Astros chased Suarez with back-to-back walks in the fifth, and the runners advanced on Warren’s wild pitch before Bregman drove them both home.
After Bregman scored from third when McCormick beat out a two-out grounder in the eighth, Los Angeles’ Jo Adell ended the inning by robbing Niko Goodrum of a probable three-run homer with a difficult catch above the left field fence.
Shohei Ohtani interrupted his 1-for-14 start to the season at the plate by mashing a double that sent Tyler Wade to third base in the third. With a 119.1-mph exit velocity, it was the hardest-hit ball of the AL MVP’s career and the hardest by a left-handed batter since 2015, when the tracking started.
Los Angeles failed to capitalize on Ohtani’s double moments later: Wade was ruled to have missed the plate on his slide when he tagged up on Mike Trout’s ensuing flyout. Maddon said the umpires didn’t explain the replay decision to the Angels.
“I can’t even ask,” Maddon said. “If I go up there and start asking, I’ll just get annoyed. I’m going to get kicked out right there. Where else would his hand have been, except on the plate? … I could not believe that that was not ruled in our favor.”
Mayfield spent his first eight professional seasons in the Astros’ system, making the majors in 2019 and 2020 before Houston waived him. Since then, the native Texan is 12 for 41 against the Astros with two homers and seven RBIs.
Houston’s José Altuve got the day off to rest. … The Angels placed reliever José Quijada on the 10-day injured list with a right oblique strain. Quijada warmed up to enter Saturday’s game, but didn’t take the mound.
After the game, Houston optioned INF Joe Perez to Double-A Corpus Christi and sent RHP Tyler Ivey outright to Triple-A Sugar Land. Ivey was designated for assignment last Thursday.
Astros: After a day off in Phoenix, Luis Garcia takes the mound Tuesday to open a two-game interleague series at Arizona.
Angels: Orange County native Michael Lorenzen makes his Angels debut Monday night in the opener of a two-game interleague series with the Miami Marlins. Lorenzen signed with his hometown team to be a starter after six years as a reliever in Cincinnati.
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