Hanging Around: 9/17

After dropping four straight to the A’s in Oakland, the Astros’s came to town with Justin Verlander, their newly acquired ace, on the mound to face the Halo’s.  As the ‘Stros are one of the favorites to capture the AL pennant this year, the addition of an all but certain future Hall of Famer, strongly enhances Houston’s opportunity to secure it’s first World Series title ever.

Just two weeks after the massive and indescribable devastation which resulted from Hurricane Harvey, the Astros have become a rallying cause for the City they represent and stand at the precipice of winning the AL’s Western Division flag for the first time since changing league’s in 2014 when they lost a whopping 111 games.

In his first outing since his arrival from Detroit minutes before the waiver trade deadline, Verlander beat the Mariners at Safeco last week.  On Tuesday, after giving up a leadoff double to Brandon Phillips, himself a waiver wire acquisition, Verlander dominated throughout his eight inning stint.  Unfortunately for the Angels, Verlander’s performance outshined Garrett Richards’ impressive return to the Big A for the first time since April 25, 2016.  Encouraging as Garrett’s start was, the 1-0 loss was a tough one to swallow coming with only eighteen games left in the season and opportunities to gain a wild card birth slipping away.  And, despite an impressive performance by Tyler Skaggs on Tuesday that accompanied some heavy hitting by Phillips,  Justin Upton, Mike Trout, Kole Calhoun and Luis Valbuena, the loss of a three game set to Houston could not have come at a more inopportune time as the rival Twins took three in a row against the Padres and Jays at the beginning of the week.

The Angels rebounded at week’s end to take two of three from the “other” Texas team, the Rangers who came into town trailing the Angels by only two games in the loss column.  In winning the first two games against a long time arch-rival, the Halos climbed back to within a game of the Twins.  Unfortunately, L.A. is struggling to keep their rotation intact despite the welcome return of Garrett Richards but who doubtlessly will be limited by a restricted pitch count.

In the opener against the Rangers, the Angels were forced to start Bud Norris, the club’s leader in games saved, as it appears that Andrew Heaney, recently returned from Tommy John surgery, will likely be unavailable for the remainder of the regular season.  With Matt Shoemaker on the DL after surgery, JC Ramirez facing the prospect of surgery as well, Nick Tropeano sidelined through the start of the Arizona Fall League, and Alex Meyer likely out until the start of the 2019 season, the Angels will have a lot of  juggling to do in their rotation.  Seven relief pitchers went to the mound on Friday en route to a 7-6 victory.  Norris, Jose Alvarez, Blake Wood, Yusmeiro Petit, and Blake Parker excelled.  And though Jesse Chavez and Cam Bedrosian did their best to undermine those efforts, the Angels escaped with a 7-6 victory thanks to the timely hitting of Andrelton Simmons and Justin Upton, together with a two run timely homer off the bat of CJ Cron.

Saturday’s victory against the Rangers coming on the strong seven inning shutout pitching performance of Parker Bridwell and perfect one inning performances by Middleton, Bedrosian and Petit brought some much needed momentum and a renewed sense of optimism to the club.  Justin Upton’s two solo shots giving him a career high 103 RBI provided the margin of victory.  Upton’s acquisition at the deadline by General Manager Billy Eppler might bode well this year should the Angels advance to the playoffs, and for years to come should Upton not exercise his right to opt out of his current contract at the end of the regular season.  Perhaps, the years long left field “dilemma” that was intended to be resolved by the signing of Josh Hamilton several years back has been eliminated.  An outfield of Upton, Trout and Calhoun should comfort the Angel faithful.

Sadly, the week ended on a sour note for the Angels as they dropped a 4-2 decision to the Rangers.  Garrett Richards pitched relatively well retiring 12 in a row during one stretch, but unfortunately, this transpired after a rocky first two innings in which Richards yielded a two-run double to Adrian Beltre and a massive 490 foot blast by Joey Gallo deep into the Big A’s expansive turf in right centerfield.  The Angels best shot to emerge with a win came when Albert Pujols’ bases loaded drive to right was hauled in by Shin-Soo Choo at the warning track in the bottom of the fifth.  The loss, coupled with a Minnesota win dropped the Angels one behind the Twins in the race for the second wild card spot with thirteen games remaining in the season.

With just two weeks to go, the Angels are still….hanging around!