The Houston Astros and Los Angeles Angels will play a doubleheader Saturday in Anaheim, Calif., the second game a makeup game for the one postponed Aug. 26 over concerns about Hurricane Laura.
They will be the second and third games of a vital 11-game road trip for the Astros, potentially pivotal in terms of playoff seeding.
The first round of the playoffs is a best-of-three series with all three games at the ballpark of the higher-seeded team. The top four seeds will get home-field advantage, and currently the Astros (21-16) are seeded No. 5 in the American League.
The Astros are 16-6 at home this year, but with Friday’s 6-5 loss to the Angels, they are just 5-10 away from Minute Maid Park, including losses in nine of their last 11 road games.
Astros manager Dusty Baker said his team’s prior road struggles may have had to do with coronavirus protocols in place for visiting teams.
“I think this one (trip) will be better because we know how to deal with the situation — the isolation, confinement — that we were going through the first time on the West Coast,” Baker said.
Of the Astros’ final 23 games, 17 will be on the road, although two of them — one in Anaheim on Saturday and one in Oakland next Tuesday — will be considered “home” games for the Astros because they are makeup games for those postponed in Houston. Meaning, the Astros will start those games in the field and bat in the bottom of each inning.
Griffin Canning, 0-3 with a 4.04 ERA this season, will start the first game of the doubleheader for the Angels (14-25), coming off his best game of the season and possibly the best game of his brief major league career.
Last Sunday against the Seattle Mariners, Canning went a career-best eight innings, gave up one run on four hits and one walk, and struck out seven. However, he got a no-decision and is still looking for his first victory of the year.
Part of Canning’s seemingly sudden turnaround against the Mariners may have had to do with going back to what made him successful last season.
“A focus going into my last couple outings has just been kind of pitching with my fastball more,” Canning said. “And then (against Seattle), I had kind of like a little backdoor slider-cutter. That worked really well for me last year but I just for whatever reason haven’t thrown it too much this year. That really helped me get ahead of guys and it was good for this lineup, especially those lefties they have in the lineup.”
Canning also noted a change in his mindset.
“Just being convicted, not worrying about making the perfect pitch,” Canning said. “Just attacking them. I think the big word for me is ‘conviction.'”
Brandon Bielak, 3-2 with a 5.40 ERA in seven games (five starts), will start for Houston in Game 1. Bielak earned a victory against the Angels with two scoreless innings in relief on July 31.
But he made a start against Los Angeles on Aug. 25 and lasted only two-thirds of an inning, giving up four runs (three earned) on three hits and three walks in a loss.
Jose Urquidy, who has not pitched in the majors this year, will start Game 2 for the Astros. As of late Friday, the Angels had not announced their Game 2 starter.
–Field Level Media