George Springer hit a two-run homer and finished a triple shy of the cycle to lead the Houston Astros to a 4-2 win over the Los Angeles Angels in Shohei Ohtani’s return to the mound on Sunday night.
Ohtani (4-2) lasted just 2 1/3 innings in his first time pitching since June 6 because of an elbow strain. Both of the hits he allowed were to Springer — a leadoff single and his two-run shot in the third that made it 2-0.
Alex Bregman finished with two hits and his solo homer in the seventh inning pushed the lead to 4-2.
Ohtani joined Babe Ruth as the only players in major league history to start 10 games as a pitcher and hit 10 homers in a single season. The rookie, who has 15 homers, missed almost a month after he was injured before returning as the team’s designated hitter on July 3.
He threw 49 pitches, striking out two and walking two. His fastball was routinely between 96-99 mph in the first two innings, but he seemed to tire by the third and his velocity dipped dramatically with his fastball only reaching between 89-92 mph.
Houston starter Gerrit Cole (13-5) allowed six hits and two runs in 5 2/3 innings for his third straight win after losing three in a row. He struck out nine to move past teammate Justin Verlander (240) and into first place in the American League with 243 strikeouts. Roberto Osuna pitched a perfect ninth for his 12th save.
After Springer’s single in the first, Ohtani walked Carlos Correa with two outs, but he struck out Tyler White to end the threat. He pitched a 1-2-3 second inning before Tony Kemp drew a walk to start the third. Springer then sent a 77 mph slider into the Crawford Boxes in left field with two strikes for his first homer since Aug. 5. Jose Altuve grounded out after that and Ohtani was replaced by Jim Johnson.
Jose Fernandez got things going for the Angels in the fourth with a single before Cole plunked Taylor Ward. Fernandez advanced to third on a passed ball by catcher Martin Maldonado. Tyler White grabbed a grounder hit by Francisco Arcia and threw home in time to beat Fernandez for the first out of the inning.
The Angels cut the lead to 2-1 when Jefry Marte grounded into a force out that scored Ward and left Arcia out at second.
Springer doubled on a ball that was just inches away from being a home run to start Houston’s fifth. The Astros pushed the lead to 3-1 later in the inning when Correa drew a bases-loaded walk.
Ward singled with no outs in the sixth before a one-out single by Marte. Cole struck out Eric Young Jr. and was replaced by Tony Sipp, who walked Kole Calhoun to load the bases. Joe Smith took over and hit David Fletcher with a pitch to send a run home and cut the lead to 3-2 before Correa made a nice catch on a ball hit by Mike Trout to end the inning.
Angels: LF Justin Upton was out of the lineup with a concussion after he was injured Saturday night. The injury came when he slid to avoid a collision with Andrelton Simmons when the two were tracking a pop up in the fifth inning. He is listed as day to day.
Angels: Matt Shoemaker (1-0, 4.76 ERA) will come off the disabled list to make his first start since March 31 when Los Angeles opens a three-game series at Texas on Monday. Shoemaker, who had surgery on his right forearm in May, is 4-2 with a 5.68 ERA in six career starts against the Rangers.
Astros: Dallas Keuchel (10-10, 3.58) is scheduled to start for Houston in the first of three games against the Twins on Monday. Keuchel allowed eight hits and three runs in six innings of a 5-4 win over Oakland in his last start but did not factor in the decision.