A week ago, the Los Angeles Angels were on their last gasp. Coming off of a crushing, four game sweep at the hands of the Pittsburgh Pirates, it looked like the Halos’ playoff chances were going the way of Josh Hamilton‘s lost swing.
Fast forward to Monday and the Angels have put in a great week of work by any standard, sweeping the AL Central-leading Detroit Tigers and finally making the Houston Astros look like the glorified minor-league squad they really are. Hamilton, meanwhile, raised his batting average 16 points on the week. Though his .223 average is nothing to be proud of, the Angels have to be relieved at the lefty’s six game hitting streak and hopeful that he will soon rediscover the powerful swing that prompted Arte Moreno to sign Hamilton in the first place.
With the halfway point of the Halo season officially behind us and the All-Star break just ahead, now is a good time to take stock of where exactly Los Angeles (39-43) stands.
As of Monday, Detroit and the Cleveland Indians each stand five games ahead of Los Angeles for the second wildcard spot and are on pace to win 87 games. One of those teams will win the AL Central while the other would contend for the second play-in spot if the current trend holds.
The Baltimore Orioles (47-36) currently lead both of those teams for the second spot and are on pace to win 92 games. Ahead of them rest the Oakland Athletics (48-35), who are on pace to go 94-68 and would be awarded the first play-in spot if the playoffs were held today.
So what does all of this mean for the Halos’ playoff prospects? It’s not a pretty picture, but Los Angeles certainly did themselves a huge favor by going 6-0 last week.
To catch the Tigers or Indians at their current pace, the Halos would have to go 48-32 (.600). This still would not land them a play-in spot, however, as the A’s and O’s would still hold those two coveted spots.
As for those spots, the Angels would need a 53-27 (.663) finish to catch the O’s, and would have to go on a 55-25 (.688) tear to pull even with their AL West rivals, the A’s.
Obviously any of these scenarios would require something the Halos have been lacking all season long: consistency. But at the risk of speaking too soon, isn’t it safe to say—barring major injuries—that the Angels’ worst is behind them? Their offense is alive, Joe Blanton is finally back on track, and Jered Weaver appears to have found his footing once more as the Los Angeles ace.
The biggest reason for pessimism, however, comes in the form of the Angels’ July schedule, which is a mixed bag to say the least. After today’s rest, the Halos will take on the St. Louis Cardinals (49-32) for a three game homestand, the first of many difficult series that will include the seven games against the A’s, a homestand against the Boston Red Sox (50-34), and a visit to Arlington at the end of the month to take on the AL West-leading Texas Rangers (48-34).
Balancing out these difficult series, the Halos will play three sub-.500 teams. Still, there is a chance we may know Los Angeles’ playoff fate by the end of this month.
One of the only silver linings in all of this is the fact that the Halos’ biggest weakness—their thin rotation—may be mitigated by the schedule. Including today, the Angels have three days off before the All-Star break, giving time for Jason Vargas‘s shoulder to heal or to acquire another arm should Los Angeles find a willing partner.
Making the playoffs will be a monumental challenge for the Angels. They will need luck, health and consistency, and even then, a team like the New York Yankees could come out of nowhere to grab a playoff spot. Looks like Halo fans will have to wait and see if the second half gives them the team they were promised last December.
Tony Baker is a Los Angeles Angels blogger for Rant Sports. You can follow him on Twitter at @tonloc_baker.