Last season, the Houston Astros were simply a juggernaut and remain so this campaign after being the class of the American League West.
This past weekend, the Astros (66-36) were in Southern California to face the Angels for a three-game series.
After taking two of three from the Halos (50-50), the difference in the two teams is noticeable.
True, the Angels have been decimated with injuries to key players, but looking at the pitching staffs and hitters, it’s clear the Astros are a superior squad that has the potential to win another title.
Still, Houston was ambushed on Sunday 14-5 as Andrew Heaney (6-6) limited the defending champions to four hits and one run across six innings, striking out four and walking two.
The Angels, who finished with 15 hits, were led by Kole Calhoun (two hits), who rifled a three-run homer, while Mike Trout (two hits with two runs) and Justin Upton each slapped two-run shots.
Andrelton Simmons (two hits with one run) drove in a pair of runs and David Fletcher (three hits and three runs) knocked in two runs.
George Springer, the World Series Most Valuable Player in 2017 when he drilled five homers during a seven-game series win over the Dodgers, collected two hits with a run and drove in one while Alex Bregman (hit) knocked in two.
On Saturday, despite being out-hit 7-5, the Astros blanked the Angels 7-0 as Justin Verlander and Springer starred.
Verlander (10-5) struck out 11 and walked two with five hits surrendered across six innings.
Springer swatted a grand slam during a five-run sixth for a 7-0 cushion. In that same frame, Josh Reddick lined a leadoff solo bomb that gave the Astros a 3-0 lead.
The lone bright spot for the Angels was designated hitter Shohei Ohtani getting a pair of doubles.
Yuli Gurriel had a sacrifice fly in the third inning that made it 1-0 and Tony Kemp’s double in the fourth pushed the advantage to 2-0.
On Friday, Houston came away with a 3-1 victory behind Dallas Keuchel (8-8), who held the Angels to two hits and one run, striking out five and walking one in seven and two-third innings.
Jose Altuve, the reigning AL MVP, delivered a run-scoring single in the first inning.
The Astros made it 2-0 in the second when Springer, who had a base hit and a run scored, lifted a sacrifice fly.
When Reddick (two hits and a run) drilled a triple in the third, the Astros were ahead 3-0.
Rick Assad has written about sports for the Pasadena Star-News and Los Angeles Times. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.