Astros swept by Angels to start road trip

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Following an 8-4 win last Thursday on a getaway day to salvage a series win over the intrastate rival Texas Rangers, the Houston Astros were swept in their four-game series against the Los Angeles Angels to begin a 10-day, 11-game west coast road trip.

A five-game set featuring a Tuesday doubleheader with first-place Oakland began Monday with Houston 3.5 games back in the American League West standings and 20 games remaining on its schedule.

This will be the final meeting between the Astros and Athletics in the regular season, although only two of the 10 scheduled games were played at Houston’s Minute Maid Park where the hosts went 2-0. Oakland similarly benefitted from home-field advantage and owned a 3-0 record at The Coliseum over the Astros entering play Monday.

Dating back to 2015, Houston has won the season series each year over the Athletics but will need to manage at least a 3-2 record to split the contests in the shortened season to extend the streak.

Through the first 40 games played, the Astros held a 21-19 record and led the Major Leagues with 39 1st-inning runs scored ahead of Minnesota and Seattle who are tied for second with 30. Houston also led MLB in runs per game (5.4), strikeouts per plate appearances (5.01) and triples (10) while it sat second in total runs scored (216), third in doubles (79) and fourth in extra-base hits (138).

Kyle Tucker has been on fire over his last 20 games, supplying a .382 average, five triples and seven home runs to help tally 28 RBIs. Entering play on Monday, Tucker had driven in 37 runs on the season and ranked fourth in the Majors behind only Jose Abreu (40), Fernando Tatis Jr. (39) and Mike Trout (38). In the extra-base hits category, his 22 ranked third behind Abreu and Anthony Santander, who had 25 each.

Michael Brantley has come through with runners in scoring position to record a .480 average with a baserunner on either second or third base, which also is best in baseball. He’s helped the Astros’ team average with runners in scoring position climb to .283, which is third-best in MLB.

It has been Martin Maldonado, however, who has emerged as a team MVP candidate by catching 32 of the team’s 40 games with a .255 batting average and a team-leading .386 on-base percentage with four home runs and 20 RBI. He ranks first among AL catchers in RBIs (20), walks (19) and runs scored (17).

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