A benevolent official scorer perhaps kept the Los Angeles Angels from adding to their major-league-worst mark of 31 unearned runs allowed on Saturday, but regardless of any rendered decisions, the Houston Astros were keen to take advantage of the Angels' defense.
The host Astros won 9-6, buoyed by a five-run fourth inning that turned on a pair of misplays by the Angels, the first of which was a botched grounder by shortstop Livan Soto with one out.
Soto muffed a sharp ground ball off the bat of Jeremy Pena, a miscue that was scored a hit and one that enabled the Astros to load the bases. Yordan Alvarez followed with a grounder to the right side of the infield that eluded first baseman Jared Walsh and was fielded by second baseman Brandon Drury. The problem? Pitcher Patrick Sandoval failed to cover first.
That chain of events led to Martin Maldonado scoring the third run of the game for the Astros and Alex Bregman coming to the plate with the bases full again. Bregman hit a grand slam, and Houston took a 7-1 lead and clinched this four-game series, which will end on Sunday afternoon.
"You have to," Astros manager Dusty Baker said of capitalizing on opponent miscues. "That's the name of the game: taking advantage of the opportunities and doing something with them.
"They helped us out some early in the game, and we'll take them because runs and victories are very hard to come by. We'll take any help that we can get."
Rookie right-hander J.P. France (1-1, 4.00 ERA) will start the series finale as the Astros pursue a sweep.
France logged six innings but did not factor into the decision of a 7-5 loss to the Minnesota Twins on Monday after allowing four runs on seven hits and three walks while matching his career high of eight strikeouts.
France has fanned eight batters in consecutive starts and has 26 strikeouts across 27 innings since joining the rotation.
France will make his first career appearance against the Angels.
Right-hander Griffin Canning (4-2, 4.89) is the scheduled starter for the Angels on Sunday.
Canning earned the 6-4 victory in his last start on Monday against the Chicago White Sox after working six innings and allowing three earned runs on six hits with nine strikeouts. He has won his last two starts after tossing seven scoreless innings at the Boston Red Sox on May 23 and was credited with the win in four of his last six appearances.
Canning is 0-2 with a 9.87 ERA over five career starts against the Astros. He was the pitcher of record in a 5-4 loss to Houston on May 10 after allowing five runs on five hits and one walk with three strikeouts over 3 2/3 innings.
After two breathtaking relief appearances during which 21 of his 22 pitches reached 100-plus mph, Angels rookie Ben Joyce surrendered two runs on three hits in the seventh inning, including an opposite-field home run to Chas McCormick and a double to Jake Meyers.
Joyce, who made his major league debut on Monday against the White Sox, averaged 101.9 mph on 29 four-seam fastballs against Houston.
"I don't care how hard you throw, you've got to get ahead of guys," Angels manager Phil Nevin said. "And you do have to mix in some secondary pitches.
"I like the way he's throwing and the way he's going after some guys. He's not going to be perfect. He's going to give up some once in a while."
--Field Level Media