HOUSTON -- What Houston Astros starter Lance McCullers managed on Thursday was par for the course for him at Minute Maid Park, and for the first four batters Chris Devenski faced out of the bullpen, the reliever delivered an effort reflective of his early-season brilliance.
That was when things turned tense.
McCullers continued his dominant pitching in his home park, and the Astros claimed a series victory over the Los Angeles Angels, holding on for a 2-1 victory by surviving an unexpectedly white-knuckle finish.
McCullers (2-0) did not allow a hit until Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons opened the fifth inning with a single to left field. He surrendered three hits (all singles) and no runs before exiting following back-to-back walks with two outs in the seventh.
The 23-year-old right-hander recorded eight strikeouts against three walks and has allowed three or fewer runs in each of his 23 career home starts. He improved to 11-4 at Minute Maid Park.
McCullers threw 100 pitches, 58 for strikes while lowering his career ERA at Minute Maid Park to 2.08.
"I think Mac (Astros catcher Brian McCann) and I were flowing pretty good there, working in and out," McCullers said. "I was able to work off the plate when I wanted to open up some, the outer half with some sliders, the inner half some changeups there later on. Just execution. I felt pretty good."
When McCullers ran into a spot of trouble in the seventh, Devenski was there to bail him out. Devenski struck out Angels second baseman Danny Espinosa with Simmons and Cameron Maybin on base to preserve the lead, and followed by retiring the side in the eighth inning before things unraveled a bit in the ninth.
Devenski surrendered a leadoff home run on an 0-2 pitch to Angels center fielder Mike Trout, his fourth, before allowing two more hits and a double steal to push the go-ahead run in scoring position. Devenski rallied to strike out Espinosa on a 3-2 changeup to record his second career save and first this season. Devenski is striking out 16.9 batters per nine innings this season.
"Big time. Big time going forward," Devenski said of the value of working under duress. "Definitely something that I know what that's like now. Especially in a tight situation like that so it was good."
Said Trout: "We had an opportunity. We just couldn't come up with the big hit. You've got to look at the positives. We've got a seven-game homestand (starting with the Toronto Blue Jays). We've got to try to win tomorrow."
The Astros (11-5) mustered just enough offense against Angels right-hander Matt Shoemaker (0-1), with left fielder Carlos Beltran and center fielder Jake Marisnick clubbing solo home runs in the first and fifth innings, respectively. Beltran socked his first home run to right field with one out. Marisnick blasted a 440-foot shot to left field with two outs for his second home run on the season.
Shoemaker was splendid otherwise, allowing just three hits and two walks with seven strikeouts over seven innings. However, the Angels (7-10) were limited to one run or fewer for the fifth time in their past seven games, all losses.
"They ran into a couple, and that's going to happen; so be it," Shoemaker said. "Overall, I feel pretty good about it."
NOTES: With his two-out, two strike single in the top of the sixth inning, Angels RF Kole Calhoun snapped an 0-for-20 skid, the longest hitless streak of his career. ... Astros SS Carlos Correa was back in the starting lineup after missing the first three games of the series with soreness in his right hand. He went 0-for-2 with a walk. Correa was hit by a pitch Saturday against the Athletics in Oakland. ... The Astros recalled RHP James Hoyt from Triple-A Fresno and placed RHP Jandel Gustave on the 10-day disabled list due to right forearm tightness. Gustave beat out Hoyt for the final roster spot following spring training. ... Angels 3B Luis Valbuena continues to ramp up activities as he rehabs the right hamstring strain that landed him on the 10-day DL on April 1. Valbuena has begun agility drills but hasn't started running the bases.
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