Astros' Altuve seeks second AL batting title
ANAHEIM, Calif. --While the Los Angeles Angels have long since been eliminated from playoff contention, the Houston Astros visit Anaheim on Friday with the sting of elimination still fresh.
Baltimore's 4-0 victory over Toronto on Thursday night made it official, making the Astros' final three regular-season games against the Angels this weekend meaningless.
It's a disappointing way to end the 2016 season for the Astros, especially after breaking through last season and reaching the American League wild-crd game, where they beat the Yankees before losing in the AL Division Series to eventual World Series champion Kansas City.
However, the Astros and Angels offer something attractive to the fans -- Jose Altuve and Mike Trout.
Altuve seems to have his second career AL batting championship locked up, taking a .337 average into the series, well ahead of Boston's Mookie Betts, who ranks second at .320.
"I don't know if I'm going to win it," Altuve told MLB.com. "We still have three games left, and I've got to hit."
That shouldn't be a problem considering how he's hit against the Angels this season. He's hitting .446 with four home runs, 12 RBIs, a .479 on-base percentage and .692 slugging percentage against them, and he's been even better at Angel Stadium -- hitting .560.
Altuve is an MVP candidate along with Trout, who is expected to be in the lineup despite a scary moment in Wednesday's game against Oakland.
Trout was hit on left shoulder blade by a 96-mph fastball thrown by Oakland reliever John Axford. Trout left the game but was confident he would be OK.
"It's sore, hit me right on the bone," Trout said. "But we've got three games left, so I'm going to grind it out."
Precautionary X-rays taken Thursday were negative, and Trout still has a chance to reach a couple of key statistical milestones.
Trout enters the series with 29 homers, 99 RBIs and 27 stolen bases. He also leads the majors in runs (123), walks (113), and on-base percentage (.441).
Angels designated hitter Albert Pujols, however, could be done for the season. Pujols has been bothered for the past month with plantar fasciitis in his right foot. He had the same injury in his left foot in 2013, and he played in a career-low 99 games.
Even if he is done for this season, Pujols had a solid season at age 36, hitting .268 with 31 homers and 119 RBIs in 152 games, showing he still can be a force in the heart of the lineup.
"You couldn't have asked for more than he did this year for us," Angels manager Mike Scioscia told MLB.com. "There's no doubt that the talent is there, and it's real. He had an incredible season for us.
"I think if you look at his bat speed, his exit velocity, all the analytics, you look at his swing path, it's all there."