HOUSTON — Joe Musgrove lifted the Houston Astros in more ways than one Sunday.
With his team in desperate need of a win to remain in playoff contention, Musgrove pitched seven strong innings to help lift Houston over the Los Angeles Angels 4-1 to snap a three-game slide.
“He had a tremendous game today at a time (when) we needed it,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “(The) compete button is never off for Musgrove, and I appreciate the way he goes about it.”
The Astros backed Musgrove with home runs from Evan Gattis, Tony Kemp and Tyler White.
Houston remained three games behind Baltimore for the second AL wild-card spot.
Playoffs aspirations aside, Musgrove had another pressing reason to make his start count.
“Today was a tough day,” said Musgrove, referring to the news of Miami pitcher Jose Fernandez’s tragic death from a boating accident early Sunday at age 24. “I think everyone was a bit down with the bad news we had this morning.”
“There are a few guys in here that are handling it a little worse than the rest of us from having personal relationships with Jose. The energy was a little bit down, so I was hoping to go out there and pitch a strong seven,” he said.
That he did.
Musgrove (4-4) allowed one run on seven hits while striking out four.
Closer Ken Giles rebounded from a blown save in Friday’s 10-6 loss to Los Angeles. He walked one and struck out two in the ninth for his 14th save.
“I just wanted to go out there and put up a zero,” Giles said. “I needed to do that for the team and show them that I can bounce back.”
Carlos Correa singled home Jose Altuve in the Houston first.
An inning later, Gattis homered off Daniel Wright (0-5), connecting for the 31st time this season.
Kemp and White later added solo shots.
“It was a good day for our youth,” Hinch said. “These guys are getting their first taste of important baseball in September and, hopefully, October.”
Wright lasted six innings. He gave up three runs on seven hits.
“I left the changeup up to Kemp that he hit out, and then the fastball up to Gattis to lead off both those innings,” Wright said. “I just have to get better at going out there from the first pitch of each inning and be ready to go.”
The Angels kept the game close by turning four double plays.
“Defensively we played a very good game. That was good to see,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “Offensively, we just couldn’t get any momentum.”
Astros: Before the game, Hinch said he was worried about Giles’ flexibility and ability to throw, a day after he injured his right wrist when he was hit by a line drive during batting practice. X-rays were negative.
“I think he’s got a chance to be a little bit stiff,” Hinch said postgame. “Given that it’s a contusion, he’ll be all right.”
Angels: Jered Weaver (12-12, 5.20 ERA) will attempt to close out September on a winning note when Los Angeles hosts Oakland and LHP Sean Manaea (6-9, 4.03) on Monday. Weaver is 2-1 in four starts this month.
Astros: Collin McHugh (12-10, 4.61) faces fellow RHP Hisashi Iwakuma (16-12, 4.04) to open a three-game series against Seattle. McHugh is 4-0 against the Mariners this season.