By GREG BEACHAM AP Sports Writer
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Albert Pujols hit a bases-clearing double during the Angels’ six-run first inning, and Los Angeles remained unbeaten in five games since the All-Star break with a 7-2 victory over the Houston Astros on Tuesday night.
Jake Marisnick was drilled between the shoulder blades by Angels reliever Noe Ramirez (4-1) in the sixth inning, and both teams nearly came to blows moments later. Marisnick ran over Angels catcher Jonathan Lucroy in a collision at the plate in Houston nine days ago, leaving Lucroy with a concussion and a broken nose.
Shortly after Ramirez hit Marisnick with a 1-1 pitch, a verbal confrontation broke out between Pujols and several Astros in the dugout, including Lance McCullers Jr. and Justin Verlander. Both benches and bullpens partially emptied, but there was no serious physical contact — and Marisnick noticeably tried to calm his teammates.
Mike Trout missed his second straight game with a mildly strained right calf, but Shohei Ohtani and Luis Rengifo also drove in first-inning runs in Los Angeles’ eighth victory in 11 games since the death of pitcher Tyler Skaggs.
Tyler White had three hits and an RBI in the Astros’ fourth loss in six games. Their division lead over Oakland is down to 4½ games, matching their smallest advantage since May 9.
With another impressive victory while mourning Skaggs’ death, the Angels (50-46) moved four games above .500 for the first time since June 2018, albeit while still in fourth place in the AL West. Los Angeles has scored 54 runs in its last six games.
The Angels’ first six batters reached base against Astros opener Héctor Rondón (3-2), who gave up six runs on five hits and a walk in just nine batters while failing to get out of the first.
Ohtani, who drove in the first run with an infield single, went 2 for 4 and stole a base on his bobblehead night.
After getting three hits and three RBIs in the Angels’ 9-6 win Monday, Pujols came through with another big offensive moment in Trout’s absence. He drove in three runs with a perfectly placed double just inside the right field line, and Rengifo chased Rondón with an RBI triple.
Andrew Heaney pitched eight-hit ball into the fifth inning and got five strikeouts in his second start since the death of Skaggs, his best friend.
Marisnick, a native of nearby Riverside, had two hits while being booed heavily from pregame introductions onward by angry Angels fans. Marisnick didn’t play in the series opener Monday. He is currently appealing his two-game suspension for the collision.
Astros: Rogelio Armenteros came up from Triple-A Round Rock before the game and threw four innings of two-hit ball as Houston attempts to patch together the final two spots in a rotation damaged by injuries and inconsistency.
Angels: Trout hopes to return Wednesday, but accepts the importance of caution. Brian Goodwin came off the injured list after missing nine games with a bruised wrist and went 2 for 4 while replacing Trout in center.
Gerrit Cole (9-5, 3.23 ERA), the Newport Beach native who graduated from nearby Orange Lutheran High School, takes the mound for Houston against an opener and Félix Peña (7-2, 4.32 ERA), who threw the final seven innings of the Angels’ combined no-hitter last week.