At the start of this season, every Halos fan knew there was one team standing in the way of the postseason. A team within the division who they needed to beat regularly in order to keep, at the very least, the wildcard open as a way into Fall baseball. A team from Texas.
Seriously though? It’s the Astros?
At the time of writing, The Angels have gone 3-6 against the Houston Astros in 2013. Let’s put that in perspective; a team with a payroll of over $140 million, is 3-6 against a team spending under $25 million. A team boasting at least three probable future hall of famers, 3-6 against a team of kids who most baseball fans would struggle to name without their rookie cards in front of them.
How the hell has this been happening?
One big part of it could be expectation. The Angels were expected to make short work of the Astros this year – it’s Houston’s first time in the AL West, and that’s at least part of the reason many thought the Angels had such good odds to make the postseason. The logic was, any team that had a significant number of games against the Astros had a better chance of gaining a wildcard than, say, the Red Sox, who play in a more uniformly tough division.
On the flip side, no one expected the Astros to do anything except suck. Whilst the Angels may have felt they could take their foot off the gas in their series against Houston, saving their best for tougher games, the Astros literally have nothing to lose. Their entire team gets paid less than A-Rod, for pities sake; who’s going to blame them if they get beaten by Hamilton, Pujols and company?
It’s shown, I think. The Angels have had plenty of opportunities in this series, but they’ve failed to execute. They’ve pitched well and hit regularly, but they’ve also made a number of sloppy mistakes, both offensively and defensively. A perfect example was Mike Trout getting picked off at second base the other night – the look on his face said it all; “What? I’m Mike Trout, and you’re…the Astros. This is not meant to happen.”
They expected to win, but that’s not actually all that realistic. Baseball is a tough game. You don’t get to play in the Majors without a hell of a lot of talent – not even if you play for the Astros. Bud Norris is an Ace-in-waiting, and he’s shut out the much vaunted Angels offence twice this season to prove it. Chris Carter really, really seems to like batting in Anaheim, and Jason Castro is turning out to be one of the more astute draft picks of the last few years. Even without stars, as “Moneyball” pointed out, every team can expect to win a certain amount of games simply on the basis of statistics. Unfortunately, the Astros seem to winning most of theirs against The Angels.
All fairness aside, though, they shouldn’t be. These games should be a gift for the Angels, a chance to keep up the momentum that built in May, and get a few wins under their belt so that when they do get to their “other” Texas rival, they’re only 5 or 6 games behind, not 10 or 11. The Oakland A’s, another team of whom no one ever seems to expect much, even on the back of a year like 2012, have done exactly that – they’ve won 9 of 9 against Houston, and that’s the difference between second and third in the division.
The Angels need to start winning, and there won’t be many better chances between now and the All-Star game. Well, one, maybe.
The Cubs are up next.