HOUSTON (AP) Los Angeles Angels manager Phil Nevin was adamant before Sunday's game that the arm fatigue that caused two-way star Shohei Ohtani to skip his next scheduled mound start would not affect him at the plate.
Then Ohtani went out and made that clear.
Ohtani hit his AL-leading 41st homer, and the Angels beat the Houston Astros 2-1 to avoid a three-game sweep.
Ohtani’s first home run since Aug. 3 put the Angels up 2-0 in the sixth inning. Houston cut it to 2-1 in the bottom half, but the Angels finally got some help from their pitching staff after losing each of the first two games of the series 11-3. Their bullpen pitched three scoreless innings to secure the win.
Nevin said Ohtani will return to the rotation during a home series against Cincinnati that begins Aug. 21.
“He really got into one today,” Nevin said. “I thought the swings have been great. This has nothing to do with his hitting, OK? It’s his arm. Not an injury. Just tired. If you were to sign me up for him missing only one start throughout the season, I’d be the first one to raise my hand.”
Ohtani was not made available to reporters.
Los Angeles starter Chase Silseth (4-1) allowed four hits and struck out five in five scoreless innings. Carlos Estévez struck out two in the ninth for his 25th save.
“You saw the first two games. It was good to capitalize today with the pitching,” Estévez said. “Silseth, man, that was an amazing job. That was really good. And then the bullpen coming in, we got it done and that feels really good and we also feel like we’re showing the position players like, ‘Hey, we got it, don’t worry.’”
Houston’s José Urquidy (2-3) yielded three hits and one run in five-plus innings in his second start since returning from the injured list.
Eduardo Escobar doubled to left field with one out in the third and the Angels took a 1-0 lead when he scored on a two-out double by Mickey Moniak.
There was one out in the fourth when Kyle Tucker hit a ground-rule double. Jon Singleton walked with two outs, but the Astros came away empty when Mauricio Dubon grounded into a force play.
Ohtani connected off Parker Mushinski for a 448-foot shot to center field with two outs in the sixth.
Singleton walked again with two outs in the bottom of the inning, moved to third on a single by Dubon and scored on a wild pitch Jose Soriano.
Houston got a single from Chas McCormick with one out in the eighth. Matt Moore then struck out Singleton and Dubon.
“We just didn’t get the big hits with runners in scoring position," Astros manager Dusty Baker said. "We had a number of opportunities and we had some near misses. (Yordan) Alvarez was close, real close. So we just got to stick with it.”
The Angels loaded the bases with two outs in the ninth off Rafael Montero, but Ryne Stanek took over and retired Randal Grichuk to leave everyone stranded.
Houston's Jose Altuve went 0 for 4 with a walk to snap a 14-game hitting streak.
Angels: LHP Patrick Sandoval (6-8, 3.86 ERA) opposes Texas RHP Max Scherzer (11-4, 3.88) when the Angels open a series against the AL West-leading Rangers Monday night.
Astros: LHP Framber Valdez (9-7, 3.30) faces LHP Braxton Garrett (6-3, 4.08) in the opener of a series at Miami Monday night.
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