Joe Maddon believes Angels and Astros are “very close”

(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

The Houston Astros finished a four-game set Sunday with the Los Angeles Angels on the road, taking the series with three wins. Manager Dusty Baker rested Michael Brantley and Jose Altuve in the final game of the series, while sitting Alex Bregman the night before.

Baker drew some question marks with his lineup cards this past weekend, hitting Niko Goodrum third Saturday night to Aledmys Diaz hitting in front of Kyle Tucker in three games. Baker draws cards to have a right-handed, left-handed sequence to counter pitching matchups later into games.

With a three-batter minimum, these lineups behoove clubs looking to pounce on opposite hands. For Goodrum, the switch-hitter had a rough weekend at the plate, going hitless in eight at-bats. Goodrum slashed a deep flyout of 386 feet, a home run robbed by left fielder Jo Adell. The flyout had an exit velocity of 102.4 mph and xBA of .480, fourth-highest in Sunday’s contest.

Although having an error to his name, Goodrum provides versatility across the infield with athleticism as first base, and as Joe Perez was optioned back to Double-A on Sunday, Yuli Gurriel’s return will lead to more utility starts from Diaz instead.

Goodrum entered the season, seeing some of his best numbers in the three-hole with an .866 OPS in 78 plate appearances. Baker stands by keeping starting bats in their regular numbered lineup spots, even when a bench bat enters the conversation.

Moving forward, the lineup could change, as Baker tests out new orders to open the year, but as Tucker puts up All-Star numbers, more at-bats would better the Astros’ offense. Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle strongly reported how Tucker smashes offspeed pitches, which the Astros see deeper into the lineup to open games.

"“(Baker) said Brantley received a steady diet of offspeed pitches and, according to him, ‘wasn’t ready’ to hit them,” Rome wrote. “Brantley hit .242 against offspeed pitches last season. Tucker hit .311 and slugged .608 against them.”"

While the Astros pieced three wins together this weekend, Angels’ manager Joe Maddon believes his club is contending with Houston.

Following Sunday’s game, Maddon addressed reporters, as his Angles were outscored 20-10 over the past weekend. The Astros played three of those games without their starting first baseman, and two of those games resting Brantley, Altuve and Bregman.

"“My takeaway is that we’re very close to Houston,” Maddon told reporters. “We played very well against that particular team right now.”"

The Angels have three MVP-caliber players at the top of order with a resurgence in the pitching staff, as rookie Reid Detmers makes his name known and Noah Syndergaard returns with force off the rubber.

Looking beyond those names, there are question marks that every team faces from depth to the bullpen, but the Angels and the Seattle Mariners are the two teams looking to dethrone Houston for the American League West title.

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The Astros return to the diamond 8:40 p.m. Tuesday with Luis Garcia making his season debut against the Arizona Diamondbacks on the road. Also, right-handed pitching prospect Tyler Ivey cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Sugar Land.