ANAHEIM — During his media session a couple hours before the Angels game on Sunday, after yet another question about preparation for 2021, Joe Maddon dropped this comment.
“We’re still not out of this thing,” the Angels manager said before his team won its fifth straight game, beating the Houston Astros 9-5.
The Angels overcame an early three-run deficit and broke the tie with four in the eighth, including Jared Walsh’s go-ahead RBI single. Luis Rengifo drove in a run with a bases loaded walk and then Justin Upton drove in two more.
It finished off the Angels first four-game sweep since 2017, and their first of the Astros since 2014.
Although the Angels chances of reaching reaching the postseason are still small enough that it may not be worth considering, they are creeping higher.
The top two teams in each division earn postseason spots, and the Angels (18-25) are now five games behind the Astros (21-19), with 18 games to go. Unfortunately for the Angels, they have no more games against the Astros or even the Seattle Mariners, who are in between the teams.
There still likely aren’t enough games left for them to make up the ground, but things could get slightly more interesting this week, with the Astros playing five games in four days against the first-place Oakland A’s while the Angels have three against the last-place Texas Rangers.
Playing Sunday with a first-pitch temperature of 106 degrees, the Angels were behind quickly.
Jaime Barria gave up three runs within the first six batters of the game, on a Preston Tucker two-run homer in the first and solo homer by Aledmys Diaz in the second.
After that, though, he did not allow another run through his five innings.
He left the game with a 4-3 lead thanks to a three-run third for the Angels, including Anthony Rendon’s two-run homer to tie it. Jo Adell then doubled and scored on a Jared Walsh sacrifice fly.
In the sixth, Taylor Ward tripled and scored on Franklin Barreto’s single to increase the lead to 5-3.
Felix Peña entered in the seventh, though, and had his second straight awful outing, after pitching so well for most of the season that he had ascended to getting closing opportunities.
A day after Peña gave up three runs to blow a two-run lead in the seventh and final inning, he faced three hitters and retired none of them, leaving with the two-run lead gone.
Noe Ramirez picked up the next three outs, stranding two runners, to keep the game tied.
More to come on this story.