The first-place showdown between the Los Angeles Angels and Houston Astros this week proved to largely anti-climactic, as the Astros swept the Halos in the three-game set at Minute Maid Park.
As a result, the Angels open play Friday two games behind the resurgent Astros...but they didn't leave Houston with their heads hanging low.
Instead, as MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez pointed out in a piece after Thursday's loss, the Angels know there's plenty of time left in the season to 'get right'. And remember, they played two of these games without Mike Trout as he worked back from a sore wrist.
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When on the wrong end of a series such as this, it's crucial to retain perspective. That's what the Angels are doing, as evidenced by this Albert Pujols quote to Gonzalez: "This series could have gone either way. We could have won three. I don't think there's any momentum. There's still a lot of season left. They pitched well, caught a couple of breaks and beat us, but it's not like we're 10 games out. Last year, we were worse than what we are now, and we won the division by 10 games."
Similarly, Pujols' teammates Chris Iannetta and Trout also feel strongly in their club's ability to keep pace with Houston, even after the Astros make moves to bolster their roster.
Said Iannetta to Gonzalez: "Look, there's a lot of baseball left. There's teams that get hot. We got hot in the middle of August [last year]. If they sustain the way that they're playing the last couple weeks over the next two and a half months, I tip my cap to them. But it's going to be up-and-down, it's going to be a back-and-forth."
Trout, ever the model of a level-headed individual, also has a strong sense of where his team is in the division: "It's going to be a battle for the rest of the year. Every team in our division seems to be getting better. We got better, too, obviously, with our guys. So it's going to be a battle until the end."
That battle will only accelerate as the calendar switches to August and September, so get ready for a dramatic few months.