This is a huge week for Angels baseball, and a pretty hyped up day of Angels baseball. Not only did the team acquire two new outfielders today, but we also got news that Mike Trout needed an MRI for hand issues. On top of that, the team is in Houston for probably the biggest series of the season, so far. They’re also playing the Dodgers later in the week, in another heavy series. This Houston series is especially important, though, because it could be a useful barometer of where this team is in relative terms to their closest competition. But in pure Angels fashion, they add some drama to an already drama-filled day, by starting their six game road trip off in the worst fashion possible: a blowout loss against the Astros.
In the first, newcomer Conor Gillaspie further solidified his status as Cool New Guy as he hit a double off of Houston starter Colin McHugh. Small sample size, who cares? He’s producing and I love it. A few batters later, Erick Aybar would drive Gillaspie home with a ground out, and the Angels would have a nice 2-0 lead. Too bad "lead" meant absolutely nothing in this game.
C.J. Wilson was not a fan of Houston this evening, and it was evident from about the first inning on, as he got knocked around pretty badly and gave up some huge, ill-timed homers. Carlos Correa was the first to tag Wilson, as he hit a powerful, opposite field shot in the first, closing the gap to 2-1.
In the second, the Angels attempted to give C.J. some wiggle room, and manufactured some runs. Shane Victorino got his first hit as an Angel, in his first AB, and it was a beauty of a bunt down the first base line. Just one look, and Mike Scioscia fell so hard in love. Victorino was driven home by, yet again, Cool New Guy Conor Gillaspie. A few batters later, Albert Pujols would send Gillaspie home via a single through the left side, and the Angels came out of the second with a nice 4-1 lead.
The Astros slugged back, as Chris Carter hit a deep, deep two-run homer off of C.J. Wilson, and Jose Altuve hit what should have been a (probably) infield single, leaving Hank Conger on third, but instead, Erick Aybar flubbed the play, the ball rolled under his glove and Altuve was not only safe but Conger scored. Aybar giveth, Aybar taketh away. All of a sudden, we were tied at 4 apiece.
That tie didn’t last too long, as Chris Iannetta would hit his eighth homer of the year in the third inning, a solo shot to left center. Iannetta is seeing the ball extremely well lately, and has found a surprising power stroke. The score was 5-4, but the Astros just refused to give up, and the Angels also did their best to let them back in the game. In the bottom of the fourth, with two on and two outs, Altuve hit a single to short center field, scoring one run, and Daniel Robertson threw the ball in towards home. It was cut off by C.J. Cron, and he attempted to chase down Altuve between first and second, meanwhile, they ignored the other base runner left and another Houston run crossed the plate before the Angels were able to tag Altuve. They eventually did get him, but the damage was done. The bad guys had a 6-5 lead all on some horrible, embarrassing fundamentals(or lack thereof) by the Halos.
At this point, the game was a high-powered, blow-for-blow battle between the AL West’s best teams. Sadly, after this point, it became a veritable batting practice for the Astros, as they not only knocked C.J. Wilson out of the game, but also put the screws to relief pitchers like Mike Morin and Fernando Salas. In the sixth, a couple doubles and a triple jacked the score up to 5-10 Astros, and the Halos were just outgunned and overmatched. They managed to not implode again in the rest of the game, but the death blow had been decisively delivered.
Mike Trout needs to come back, and the Angels pitching staff needs to learn how to deal with this Astros team. These guys aren’t going anywhere, and if I’m being an optimist, i’ll say that the Halos are just getting these jarring simple mistakes and misplays out of the way now, before they have to play Houston in the ALDS. If we can’t beat Houston, then we have a problem.