Alvarez Shows Up Ohtani as Astros Win

The Angels’ Shohei Ohtani delivers a pitch to Jose Altuve of the Astros in the first inning of Friday’s game.

HOUSTON (AP) — Houston manager Dusty Baker wasn’t sure how his team was able to send Shohei Ohtani to one of his worst pitching starts of the season Friday night.

But Yordan Alvarez certainly played a big role in it.

Alvarez hit a two-run homer off Ohtani for a major league-best 50 RBIs, backing a strong start by Framber Valdez in the Astros’ 6-2 victory over the Los Angeles Angels.

“Nobody gets to him too much,” Baker said. “So we were fortunate to not miss pitches when we had an opportunity.”

Valdez (6-4) scattered five hits across seven scoreless innings to extend his winning streak to four games. The left-hander, who fanned seven, has allowed just one run combined in his last three starts to lower his ERA to 2.16.

“I felt calm and stayed focused and threw the pitches down in the zone,” Valdez said in Spanish through an interpreter.

There was one out in the first when Alvarez connected on his team-leading 15th home run to make it 2-0. L.A. manager Phil Nevin said Ohtani shouldn’t have thrown a second sweeper in that at-bat.

“Alvarez is a guy that when he sees a pitch like that in the zone already, he usually doesn’t miss ‘em the second time,” Nevin said. “Just put it in a bad spot.”

Rookie Corey Julks added a two-run shot off Ohtani (5-2) in the sixth to push the lead to 5-0.

Ohtani yielded a season-high nine hits and tied a season high with five runs in six innings for his second loss this year.

“It just comes down to pitch selection and execution, which I wasn’t able to do,” Ohtani said in Japanese through an interpreter. “If I was able to get those strikeouts, I think the momentum would have swung our way. That wasn’t the case.”

Batting leadoff for the first time this season, the two-way star also had a tough night at the plate, going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and a walk.

Taylor Ward had three hits and drove in a run in the eighth inning for the Angels as they fell to 0-2 in the four-game series.

Chas McCormick had three hits and Kyle Tucker added two hits and an RBI for the Astros.

Jeremy Pena singled with one out in the first and moved to second on a throwing error by Gio Urshela on the play. A wild pitch by Ohtani sent him to third before Alvarez’s shot to the seats behind the bullpen in right-center made it 2-0.

Tucker, Jose Abreu and Chas McCormick hit consecutive singles to load the bases with two outs in the fourth. But Ohtani retired Julks on a groundout to leave everybody stranded.

Pena walked with two outs in the fifth and Alvarez singled. Alex Bregman then hit a line drive to left field to score Pena, but Alvarez got caught between second and third to end the inning.

Ohtani ran into trouble again with two outs in the sixth when McCormick singled on a grounder. Julks followed with a shot to center field that pushed the lead to 5-0.

Tucker added an RBI double with two outs in the seventh to make it 6-0.

Brandon Drury and Ward hit back-to-back RBI singles with two outs in the eighth to cut the lead to 6-2.