Tyler Skaggs dominates as Angels blow out Astros, 9-1

  • The Los Angeles Angels Mike Trout hits an RBI double to left against the Houston Astros during the first inning at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    The Los Angeles Angels Mike Trout hits an RBI double to left against the Houston Astros during the first inning at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • The Los Angeles Angels Brandon Phillips celebrates with Kole Calhoun during the Angels’ three-run fourth inning against the Houston Astros at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    The Los Angeles Angels Brandon Phillips celebrates with Kole Calhoun during the Angels’ three-run fourth inning against the Houston Astros at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Los Angeles Angels’ Luis Valbuena, right, tosses his bat after hitting a double as Houston Astros catcher Max Stassi, center, watches along with home plate umpire Cory Blaser during the fourth inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

    Los Angeles Angels’ Luis Valbuena, right, tosses his bat after hitting a double as Houston Astros catcher Max Stassi, center, watches along with home plate umpire Cory Blaser during the fourth inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • The Los Angeles Angels Tyler Skaggs throw to the plate against the Houston Astros during the first inning at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    The Los Angeles Angels Tyler Skaggs throw to the plate against the Houston Astros during the first inning at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • The Los Angeles Angels Justin Upton hits a home run in the sixth inning against the Houston Astros at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    The Los Angeles Angels Justin Upton hits a home run in the sixth inning against the Houston Astros at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • The Los Angeles Angels Justin Upton watches his solo home run in the sixth inning against the Houston Astros at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    The Los Angeles Angels Justin Upton watches his solo home run in the sixth inning against the Houston Astros at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • The Los Angeles Angels Justin Upton rounds the bases after his solo home run in the sixth inning against the Houston Astros at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    The Los Angeles Angels Justin Upton rounds the bases after his solo home run in the sixth inning against the Houston Astros at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • The Los Angeles Angels Luis Valbuena tosses his bat after hitting a double to lead off the fourth inning against the Houston Astros at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    The Los Angeles Angels Luis Valbuena tosses his bat after hitting a double to lead off the fourth inning against the Houston Astros at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Angels starting pitcher Tyler Skaggs throws to the plate during Wednesday’s game against the Houston Astros at Angel Stadium. Skaggs pitched seven scoreless innings in a 9-1 victory. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Angels starting pitcher Tyler Skaggs throws to the plate during Wednesday’s game against the Houston Astros at Angel Stadium. Skaggs pitched seven scoreless innings in a 9-1 victory. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • The Los Angeles Angels Justin Upton hauls in a fly ball by the Houston Astros George Springer during the first inning at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    The Los Angeles Angels Justin Upton hauls in a fly ball by the Houston Astros George Springer during the first inning at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • The Los Angeles Angels Tyler Skaggs walks off the mound after the first inning against the Houston Astros at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    The Los Angeles Angels Tyler Skaggs walks off the mound after the first inning against the Houston Astros at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • The Los Angeles Angels Mike Trout hits an RBI double to left against the Houston Astros during the first inning at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    The Los Angeles Angels Mike Trout hits an RBI double to left against the Houston Astros during the first inning at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • The Los Angeles Angels Brandon Phillips high-fives teammates in the dugout after scoring on a Mike Trout double against the Houston Astros during the first inning at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    The Los Angeles Angels Brandon Phillips high-fives teammates in the dugout after scoring on a Mike Trout double against the Houston Astros during the first inning at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Los Angeles Angels Manager Mike Scioscia in the dugout against the Houston Astros during the first inning at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Los Angeles Angels Manager Mike Scioscia in the dugout against the Houston Astros during the first inning at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • The Los Angeles Angels Kole Calhoun hits an RBI double against the Houston Astros during the first inning at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    The Los Angeles Angels Kole Calhoun hits an RBI double against the Houston Astros during the first inning at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • The Los Angeles Angels Mike Trout high-fives teammates in the dugout after scoring on a Kole Calhoun double against the Houston Astros during the first inning at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    The Los Angeles Angels Mike Trout high-fives teammates in the dugout after scoring on a Kole Calhoun double against the Houston Astros during the first inning at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • The Los Angeles Angels Luis Valbuena hits a two-run home run against the Houston Astros during the first inning at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    The Los Angeles Angels Luis Valbuena hits a two-run home run against the Houston Astros during the first inning at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • The Los Angeles Angels Luis Valbuena celebrates with Andrelton Simmons behind the Houston Astros’ Max Stassi after his two-run home run in the first inning at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    The Los Angeles Angels Luis Valbuena celebrates with Andrelton Simmons behind the Houston Astros’ Max Stassi after his two-run home run in the first inning at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • The Los Angeles Angels Luis Valbuena celebrates after his two-run home run against the Houston Astros during the first inning at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    The Los Angeles Angels Luis Valbuena celebrates after his two-run home run against the Houston Astros during the first inning at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • The Los Angeles Angels Albert Pujols has words with home plate umpire Cory Blaser after striking out against the Houston Astros during the first inning at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    The Los Angeles Angels Albert Pujols has words with home plate umpire Cory Blaser after striking out against the Houston Astros during the first inning at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • The Los Angeles Angels Tyler Skaggs throw to the plate against the Houston Astros during the first inning at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    The Los Angeles Angels Tyler Skaggs throw to the plate against the Houston Astros during the first inning at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • The Los Angeles Angels Brandon Phillips blows a bubble as he heads to the dugout against the Houston Astros at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    The Los Angeles Angels Brandon Phillips blows a bubble as he heads to the dugout against the Houston Astros at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • The Los Angeles Angels Luis Valbuena slides into second after hitting a double to lead off the fourth inning against the Houston Astros at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    The Los Angeles Angels Luis Valbuena slides into second after hitting a double to lead off the fourth inning against the Houston Astros at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • The Los Angeles Angels Mike Trout laughs with Brandon Phillips in the dugout during their three-run fourth inning against the Houston Astros at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    The Los Angeles Angels Mike Trout laughs with Brandon Phillips in the dugout during their three-run fourth inning against the Houston Astros at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • The Los Angeles Angels Brandon Phillips celebrates after hitting a two-run single during the Angels’ three-run fourth inning against the Houston Astros at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    The Los Angeles Angels Brandon Phillips celebrates after hitting a two-run single during the Angels’ three-run fourth inning against the Houston Astros at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • The Los Angeles Angels C.J. Cron scores past Houston Astros catcher Max Stassi and starting pitcher Mike Fiers on a Brandon Phillips single during the fourth inning at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    The Los Angeles Angels C.J. Cron scores past Houston Astros catcher Max Stassi and starting pitcher Mike Fiers on a Brandon Phillips single during the fourth inning at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • The Los Angeles Angels Mike Trout heads for third on a Pujols single during the fourth inning against the Houston Astros at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    The Los Angeles Angels Mike Trout heads for third on a Pujols single during the fourth inning against the Houston Astros at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • The Los Angeles Angels Brandon Phillips celebrates with Kole Calhoun during the Angels’ three-run fourth inning against the Houston Astros at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    The Los Angeles Angels Brandon Phillips celebrates with Kole Calhoun during the Angels’ three-run fourth inning against the Houston Astros at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • The Los Angeles Angels Tyler Skaggs throw to the plate against the Houston Astros giving up no runs on three hits in seven innings at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    The Los Angeles Angels Tyler Skaggs throw to the plate against the Houston Astros giving up no runs on three hits in seven innings at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • The Los Angeles Angels Justin Upton catches a fly ball against the Houston Astros at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    The Los Angeles Angels Justin Upton catches a fly ball against the Houston Astros at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • The Los Angeles Angels Manager Mike Scioscia in the dugout against the Houston Astros at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    The Los Angeles Angels Manager Mike Scioscia in the dugout against the Houston Astros at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • The Los Angeles Angels Tyler Skaggs celebrates with catcher Martin Maldonado as he leaves the game after the seventh inning against the Houston Astros, giving up no runs on three hits, at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    The Los Angeles Angels Tyler Skaggs celebrates with catcher Martin Maldonado as he leaves the game after the seventh inning against the Houston Astros, giving up no runs on three hits, at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • The Los Angeles Angels Luis Valbuena throws out the runner during the Angels game against the Houston Astros at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    The Los Angeles Angels Luis Valbuena throws out the runner during the Angels game against the Houston Astros at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

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ANAHEIM — Tyler Skaggs just might be on to something.

After struggling for a month after returning from the disabled list, Skaggs added a pitch to his repertoire and the results have been dramatic.

His improvement seems to coincide with his use of his sinker, which he threw liberally on his way to seven scoreless innings in the Angels’ 9-1 dismantling of the Houston Astros on Wednesday night.

The rollicking night began with a five-run first inning, punctuated by a Luis Valbuena bat flip after his two-run homer, and the Angels cruised from there.

The Angels are still two games behind the Minnesota Twins in the race for the second American League wild card spot, with 17 games to go.

Skeptics of their chances of reaching the postseason could point to the instability in their rotation and the difficulty of their schedule, both of which were addressed on Wednesday.

The blowout victory came in the second of six games over two weeks against the first-place Astros, who have the second-best record in the league. In between they will play three against the record-setting Cleveland Indians, who won their 21st consecutive game on Wednesday.

If the Angels are to hang with those teams, they will need more of what Skaggs provided, a boost to a tattered rotation.

Skaggs himself was one of the primary question marks, as he posted a 5.86 ERA in his first six games since returning from a strained oblique. After a two-inning debacle in Texas on Sept. 1, Skaggs decided to bring back his sinker.

Up until Skaggs blew out his elbow in 2014, he was throwing both four-seam fastballs and two-seamers, using the four-seamers slightly more frequently. When he returned in 2016, and in his first 11 starts of 2017, though, he didn’t throw it at all.

Last week in Oakland, Skaggs gave up three runs in six innings in a game in which he threw 48 four-seamers and 23 two-seamers among his 103 pitches.

On Wednesday, Skaggs was even better, as he increased the numbers of two-seamers. He threw 33 sinkers and 17 four-seamers among the 85 pitches he needed to get through seven. He allowed just three singles — one a bunt and a one a blooper — and he walked one. He struck out five.

Skaggs also had the benefit of a comfortable lead, thanks to the offense thumping Astros spot starter Mike Fiers. Taking the ball because Lance McCullers Jr. had to be scratched with arm fatigue.

Brandon Phillips, Mike Trout, Kole Calhoun and Andrelton Simmons all doubled in the first, to put the Angels ahead, 3-0. Valbuena then launched his 20th homer of the season, with one of his signature bat flips.

Valbuena, who also had a notable bat flip against the Astros last month, got a pitch over his head the next time he came up, in the fourth inning. Valbuena turned toward Fiers, and umpire Cory Blaser quickly popped out in front of the plate to intercede before the tempers could heighten. Blaser warned both dugouts, and Valbuena then responded with a double — and another bat flip.

The Angels padded the lead with three in the fourth, including Albert Pujols’ 95th RBI. In the sixth, Justin Upton hit his first homer with the Angels. It gave Upton 100 RBI for the season, including 94 with the Detroit Tigers.

More to come on this story.

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