Sure, they were improved over 2014, when they had a record of 70-92, and clearly they were not the pushovers of 2011-13, when they had three straight 100-loss seasons. But one month of good baseball does not guarantee a pennant contender.
"When it's April, it's easy to be blasé about stuff because the season is so fresh," Angels pitcher
Although the Angels did not dismiss the Astros' hot start, they viewed it with some skepticism. "It's early," some players said privately. "Let's see where they are in July and August."
Well, July is nearly gone, and the Astros (55-45) are still in contention despite coughing up their
Houston survived those droughts by winning six of nine since the All-Star break, and the Astros are a game behind the Angels entering a three-game series between the teams that begins Tuesday night at Minute Maid Park. Outfielder
After years of rebuilding, the Astros showed they are serious about winning now by acquiring left-hander
"They definitely got a little better pitching-wise," Angels left-hander
It wasn't too long ago that the Astros had one or two decent starting pitchers, one great position player in second baseman
"A couple of years ago, you'd go into Houston thinking you were going to get a three- or four-game sweep," Santiago said. "That's what it felt like."
Now the Astros lead the major leagues with 136 home runs and 74 stolen bases and are fourth with 437 runs despite leading the AL with 892 strikeouts.
Kazmir (2.24) and Keuchel (2.32) have two of the top four earned-run averages in the league, and McHugh is 11-5 with a 4.25 ERA. The bullpen is deep, with closer
Altuve is hitting .301 with an AL-leading 28 stolen bases, and his new double-play partner, rookie shortstop
"It's not like we can go in there and run through that team," Santiago said. "They run, play small-ball, put the ball in play, and they have a couple of guys with pop. If we play our game, I think we're still a better team. But they're really good."
The Astros have managed to maintain their offense with an all-or-nothing approach that has produced some peculiar numbers.
Chris Carter has 16 home runs and 43 RBIs but is hitting .184 with 117 strikeouts. Evan Gattis has 16 homers and 57 RBIs but is batting .246 with 79 strikeouts. Luis Valbuena has 19 homers and 40 RBIs but is hitting .198 with 76 strikeouts.
"Their roster composition is really unique," said Wilson, who will start the series opener. "They have two high-average guys in Altuve and Correa, and everyone else is pretty much trying to drop hammers and swing for the fences. It's a different problem to solve as a pitching staff."
The season series between the Angels and Astros is tied, 5-5, and the teams play nine more times. Angels Manager
"I think it creates a big distraction when you start to put monikers on a game or series," Scioscia said. "You need to take care of the game on the schedule that day; that's where your focus needs to be. If you keep that focus and let all those other distractions evaporate, you'll play better baseball and have better results."
Right-hander Jered Weaver is scheduled to start for the Class A Inland Empire 66ers on Thursday as he begins the game-action portion of rehabilitating an injured left hip.
The three-time AL All-Star hasn't pitched in a major league game since June 20. He is 4-8 with a 4.75 ERA this season.
Since June 24, the week Weaver was injured, the Angels have an
Inland Empire will be hosting the Bakersfield Blaze — the California League affiliate of the
Wilson (8-7, 3.59 ERA) will oppose McHugh (11-5, 4.25 ERA) at Minute Maid Park on Tuesday at 5 p.m. PDT. TV: FS West; Radio: 830, 1330.