The Los Angeles Angels were forced to lean heavily on their bullpen Sunday in the Freeway Series finale against the Los Angeles Dodgers, a necessary move that paid dividends.
Five relievers combined to toss five scoreless innings in the Angels' 2-1 victory. The Angels received just four innings from starter Jose Quintana on the heels of Dylan Bundy recording 10 outs in a 14-11 loss on Saturday. Angels starters amassed 13 innings in the three-game series.
The Angels will open a three-game road series against the Houston Astros on Monday with a measure of uncertainty in their rotation after placing right-hander Alex Cobb on the 10-day injured list with blisters. Left-hander Jose Suarez could start the opener, but the Angels might opt to utilize a bullpen day.
The strain aside, the win over the Dodgers provided a bit of relief.
"That's the kind of stuff that you really appreciate about your group," Angels manager Joe Maddon said. "Moving forward, fewer mistakes, the starting pitching has got to grab some more innings and we've got to maneuver it in a position or situation where everybody becomes involved and feels part of ownership."
Suarez (0-2, 38.57 ERA in 2020) was recalled on Sunday in place of Cobb. He is 2-8 with a 7.99 ERA over 21 career appearances (17 starts). In five career appearances (four starts) against the Astros, Suarez is 0-2 with a 7.31 ERA and 17 strikeouts over 16 innings.
Right-hander Luis Garcia (0-3, 3.28 ERA) will start the series opener for the Astros. Despite his record, Garcia has pitched effectively in a swing role, recording 14 strikeouts against only two walks over his last two starts and 9 2/3 innings.
Opponents are batting just .182 against Garcia in his four starts this season. He is 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA over two appearances (one start) against the Angels, including a pair of outings this season in which he has allowed three runs on six hits and three walks with one strikeout over five innings. The Astros dropped both of those games.
Houston right fielder Kyle Tucker homered for the first time in more than two weeks Sunday as the Astros claimed the rubber match of their three-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays with a 7-4 victory. Tucker, who had just one multi-hit game since his last homer on April 24, finished 2-for-3 with three runs, a walk and a season-high four RBIs to propel the offense.
Astros manager Dusty Baker has remained supportive of Tucker throughout his prolonged slump, often describing Tucker as the unluckiest member of the starting lineup. Tucker entered the series finale with a .283 expected batting average, 108 points higher than his actual average for a gap that represented the second-widest in the American League. Tucker leads the club in average exit velocity, so Baker was optimistic that Sunday represented a breakout of sorts.
"It starts with one," Baker said. "Everything starts with one. All he can do is build off that one."
Tucker echoed that sentiment. He opened this season with an RBI in each of the first six games to set a franchise record, and his sixth home run matched Yordan Alvarez for the club lead. There have been glimpses of his talent, but stringing those moments together has been difficult.
"Hopefully I can kind of turn it around now," Tucker said. "I've just got to keep working and grinding. I'm just going to try to build off (Sunday) and keep it going from there."
--Field Level Media