- Associated Press - Saturday, September 23, 2017

HOUSTON (AP) - The Los Angeles Angels were left searching for answers on Saturday after they matched a season worst with their sixth straight loss to further dampen their AL wild-card hopes.

Evan Gattis hit a three-run homer to back a solid start by Charlie Morton and lead the Houston Astros to the 6-2 win.

“It’s frustrating for sure but … there’s still eight games left,” Angels star Mike Trout said. “So we’ve just got to try to finish strong.”

Justin Upton hit two home runs for the Angels, who dropped 4½ games behind Minnesota for the second wild-card spot.

“We can’t go 2-0 tomorrow,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “We’ve got one game. We’ve got to slice it down pitch to pitch with that focus.”

Carlos Correa had three hits and three RBIs a day after his 23rd birthday as the AL West champion Astros won for the seventh time in eight games.

The Astros led 1-0 in the fifth inning when they got things going with two outs. Eduardo Paredes plunked Alex Bregman, Marwin Gonzalez singled, Correa hit an RBI double and Gattis sent his towering homer to the train tracks atop the left field wall.

Morton (13-7) yielded four hits and one run in seven innings for his second straight win.

“First off, he’s nasty,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “He’s really good and when he gets inside the strike zone and the hitters get threatened they come out swinging and when he’s throwing quality strikes he gets some early outs.”

Bud Norris (2-6) allowed three hits and one run over 3 1/3 innings in his second start after spending most of the year in the bullpen.

Upton’s homer in the seventh ended the Angels‘ scoreless streak at 23 innings. He connected in the ninth for his 34th homer, extending his career high in a season split between Detroit and Los Angeles.

The Angels have managed just two runs combined in the last three games.

Aside from Upton, the top of the Angels‘ order struggled, with Kole Calhoun, Mike Trout and Albert Pujols combining to go 1 for 11 with four strikeouts.

“When things aren’t going right and you see some good pitching, it can wear you down,” Upton said. “We’ve just got to pull together and keep having good at-bats and see what happens.”


Astros: OF Josh Reddick didn’t play. He left Friday night’s game after the fifth inning because of lower back discomfort. Hinch said he doesn’t think the problem is serious and expects him to return soon.


Correa’s big day gave him his first three-hit game since coming off the disabled list after missing six weeks following thumb surgery. Hinch is glad to see Correa starting to play like he did before the injury, but doesn’t fault him for taking a bit to get back in sync at the plate. Correa came off the disabled list on Sept. 3.

“I think it’s unfair for anyone to have expected him to just seamlessly transition from an injury the way he’s had it to be back in form both strength and production,” Hinch said. “I know he’s sort of Superman, but he’s deserved a little bit of a ramp to get himself back ready.”


Scioscia on if his players need to ramp up their intensity with so few games left: “If you’re talking about these players gripping the bat tighter and swinging harder because we’re down to the last eight games, I think it’s counterproductive.”


Angels: Tyler Skaggs (2-6, 4.30 ERA) is scheduled to start on Sunday night. He allowed eight hits and two runs in 5 1/3 innings of a loss to Cleveland in his last outing.

Astros: Lance McCullers (7-3, 3.97) will start Sunday. McCullers hasn’t pitched since he was scratched from his scheduled start on Sept. 13 because of arm fatigue. Hinch said his pitch count will be limited, but didn’t say exactly how many pitches they’ll let him throw.


More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball

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