Jered Weaver/Photo courtesy of Los Angels Angels
– The Angels have done a nice job of playing themselves back into the playoff picture as they enter their three-game series Monday at Houston 2 1/2 games behind the Astros for the second of two American League wild-card spots. But the Angels, who are four games behind the first-place Texas Rangers in the AL West, will be on the outside looking in if they get swept in this series. That would put them 5 1/2 behind Houston with just 10
games to play. Also, keep in mind that the Angels have Minnesota and Cleveland to deal with in the wild-card race as the Twins are tied with the Angels and the Indians are just 1 1/2 games behind those two.
– The first game of this series would seem a pitching mismatch favoring the Astros. The Angels will send Jered Weaver (7-11, 4.74 ERA) against the Astros’ Dallas Keuchel (17-8, 2.56). Weaver was ejected in the fifth inning of his most recent start for plunking Kyle Seager of the Seattle Mariners after the two had exchanged words during the at-bat Wednesday in Seattle. Weaver is having his worst season in 10. Keuchel is a Cy Young
Award candidate, but he was hammered for nine earned runs in 4 2/3 innings of a 13-4 loss at Texas on Wednesday.
– This would be a great time for Albert Pujols to start hitting again. That could be a lot to ask because he is suffering from a sore right foot that has been causing him a lot of pain and discomfort. Not able to play his position at first base, Pujols has nevertheless been toughing it out as designated hitter. Unfortunately for the Angels, he has gone in the tank at the plate, batting just .152 this month with one home run and nine RBIs.
– Mike Trout is another one. After batting just .218 in August with one home run and seven RBIs, he has improved this month. In September he’s batting .258 with six home runs and 11 RBIs. But keep in mind that two of those home runs and five of the RBIs came in one game. In other words, Trout is still not doing what the reigning MVP should be doing for his team down the stretch of a playoff race. Trout’s other numbers this month are good – .385 on-base, .613 slugging and .998 OPS. But he has to drive in runs on a more consistent basis over these final 13 games, and he has to hit better than .258. Here’s the difference: Trout hit .320 in June with eight home runs and 16 RBIs and .367 in July with 12 home runs and 24 RBIs.
– Bottom line is, the Angels are going to need some clutch pitching performances in this series. Hector Santiago (8-9, 3.47) goes against Lance McCullers (5-6, 3.18) of the Astros on Tuesday and the Angels’ Nick Tropeano (2-2, 5.06) squares off with Mike Fiers (7-10, 3.64) on Wednesday. Santiago has had a poor second half. Santiago had an ERA of 2.30 on July 20 and was selected as a replacement on the All-Star team. He is
coming off an outing Thursday in Minnesota that saw him give up five earned runs in two-thirds of an inning. He has one victory since July 20.