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Halos drop series finale, watch Astros clinch

@RhettBollinger
September 22, 2019

HOUSTON -- As the Angels watched the Astros clinch their third straight American League West title with a 13-5 win in Sunday’s series finale at Minute Maid Park, it was a reminder how far the Halos need to go to get to Houston’s elite level. The Angels are mired in

HOUSTON -- As the Angels watched the Astros clinch their third straight American League West title with a 13-5 win in Sunday’s series finale at Minute Maid Park, it was a reminder how far the Halos need to go to get to Houston’s elite level.

The Angels are mired in a fourth straight losing season and haven’t reached the postseason since 2014. The loss dropped them to 70-86, 32 games back of the Astros in the division. They’re in danger of losing 90 games for only the 12th time in franchise history, and the first time since 1999.

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Angels manager Brad Ausmus said he hopes that his young club can use watching the Astros clinch as motivation for next year.

"I'd hope, for the younger guys,” Ausmus said. “The older guys probably just look away. But I hope it would be. It's a lot more fun to be on that side."

Rookie left-hander Jose Suarez echoed Ausmus’ sentiment, as he’s optimistic it won’t be too long before the Angels can host a celebration of their own.

“It’s always hard to see other teams celebrate in front of you,” Suarez said through an interpreter. “That doesn’t take away from this team. We are a very competitive team. We’ll continue to be competitive. We’ll keep working hard.”

The Angels had injuries take their toll yet again this season, as right fielder Kole Calhoun, infielder David Fletcher, first baseman Albert Pujols and closer Hansel Robles are the only regulars who haven't gone on the injured list. But it’s clear the Halos don’t have the depth to deal with injuries the same way clubs like the Astros do.

It’s led to a youth movement for the Angels, who utilized several youngsters in the rotation such as Suarez (21 years old), Patrick Sandoval (22), Jaime Barria (22) and Griffin Canning (23). And several rookies have seen extended action as position players as well, including second baseman Luis Rengifo and third baseman Matt Thaiss. First baseman Jared Walsh, outfielder Michael Hermosillo and left fielder Taylor Ward have also seen their playing time increase this September.

Walsh and Hermosillo connected for back-to-back triples in the second inning on Sunday, marking the first time the Angels had done that since May 14, 2004.

"We have a lot of good baseball players," Suarez said. "A lot of talent in this room. We all work really hard. I do believe we can be in contention.”

Suarez threw two innings in relief, as the Angels are looking to limit his pitch total down the stretch. He struck out two and gave up a solo homer to George Springer, one of three Springer hit in the game. Suarez has scuffled during his rookie year with a 7.34 ERA in 18 appearances. He’ll get one more start against the Astros on Saturday, Ausmus confirmed.

"We've said it the last few months, that we had guys up here in the big leagues we didn't expect to be here based on the circumstances,” Ausmus said. “That definitely comes into play."

The Angels, though, are hopeful that their young core will continue to develop as they build their roster around superstar center fielder Mike Trout and two-way star Shohei Ohtani. They also have top outfield prospect Jo Adell on the way to take over in right field. But it’s also obvious they’ll need help this offseason, as they look to add to a starting rotation that remains the club’s weakest link.

"I mean, you never know,” Ausmus said of the Angels’ chances in 2020. “It can turn [for the better] over an offseason. So, we'll see how that plays out."

Rhett Bollinger covers the Angels for MLB.com. He previously covered the Twins from 2011-18. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.