The Astros have 97 losses, and a third consecutive 100-loss season appears inevitable, especially with the rest of their games after the Angels leave town Sunday coming against playoff contenders. But against Los Angeles (71-77), the Astros are 10-8 entering the finale.
Lefty Brett Oberholtzer, arguably the Astros' most consistent starter of late, allowed four runs over six innings during a 93-pitch outing that resulted in his third loss of the year.
"You look at his body of work, he did pretty good job of getting the game to the sixth inning," manager Bo Porter said. "But I was talking in the dugout, he just didn't look like he had that pinpoint command, that late life that we had seen in a lot of his previous starts."
Olberholtzer yielded a leadoff homer to Chris Iannetta in the third, and was touched for three in the fourth behind RBI doubles by Howie Kendrick and Kole Calhoun, and an RBI single by Iannetta.
Before that, Olberholtzer needed just 22 pitches to get through the first two innings.
"Command got away from me a little bit," he said. "In the first three innings, it was probably my best command all year. I felt like I was spotting my fastball pretty well. I kind of let up a little bit, I guess, in the fourth, and they got three or four batters there where they got RBIs and capitalized."
Added Porter: "His breaking ball didn't have the kind of depth that we are used to, which is a credit to him, to not have his good stuff and still battle and be able to get through six innings."
The Astros' only offense came off the bat of Brett Wallace, who sent a 2-1 offering from Jered Weaver into the right-field seats in the fourth. Weaver, facing the Astros for the first time in his career, allowed six hits over six innings in a 108-pitch outing.
"He's got five pitches, he'll throw them in any count, he can plus and minus a fastball," Porter said. "He's a guy that you definitely don't want to expand your zone [against]. He's a guy that can throw some breaking stuff, even when he's behind in the count. He has a lot of confidence in all his pitches."
The Astros set an American League single-season strikeout record with nine on the night to give them 1,393 this season. The 2012 A's held the previous record of 1,387, eclipsed by the Astros when Trevor Crowe struck out looking to end fifth and leave the bases loaded.
The Majors' single-season strikeout record is held by the 2010 D-backs, who fanned 1,529 times.
A bulk of the strikeouts came in the very early stages of the season, when the Astros were on pace to shatter the all-time record by mid-August. But despite an ever-changing roster and daily lineup shuffles, the offense slowly began to stabilize -- comparatively speaking, at least, to the beginning of the year.
"Early on, we were missing a lot of fastballs early in the count," Porter said. "We were swinging at a lot of offspeed pitches out of the strike zone. Over the course of the season, we started of doing a better job of handling the fastball, and we reduced our ability to chase. That's when, offensively, we started to play better baseball. We started handling the fastball and not chasing pitches out of the zone."
That's progress, given the inexperience of the hitters. To illustrate that: Jose Altuve, age 23 and in his second full season, is one of the more experienced players on this team.
"Sometimes it's going to be hard for a young team like us," he said. "I think every time I'm around the clubhouse and I see the guys, they want to go outside, keep playing, keep improving.
"On a young team, that's going to be a big question -- who's going to play and who's not. I wouldn't say we're comfortable, but we're a little more ready. Everyone gives everything they have, including me, and including them. We have to in order to get better."