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American League wild card standings: Mike Trout helps Angels pull within 2½ games

The Angels entered play Thursday with a 12.4-percent chance of making the postseason, per FanGraphs, but improved those odds.

Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Mike Trout hit two home runs, including a grand slam, and drove in five runs to lead the Angels to an 11-8 win over the Twins on Thursday night at Target Field in Minnesota, getting the Halos off on the right foot to a crucial seven-game stretch of their season.

The Angels began play on Thursday 3½ games behind the Astros for the second wild card position in the American League, and two games behind the wild-card-hopeful Twins, with the Halos opening a four-game series in Minnesota followed next week by three games in Houston.

So far, so good for the Angels, who pulled to within 2½ games of the second AL wild card spot thanks to the Astros losing again to the Texas Rangers, this time 8-2, completing a four-game sweep for the home team in Arlington.

Houston, a team that spent 139 days in first place in the American League West, now finds itself 2½ behind the Rangers in the division but still 1½ games up on Minnesota for the second wild card.

David Freese went 3-for-5 on Thursday for the Angels, including two doubles, while second baseman Taylor Featherston had three hits, scored twice and drove in a pair of runs.

Trout was struggling in the loosest sense of the word in September, hitting only .255/.379/.532 in 14 games this month entering Thursday night with just four RBI. But he surpassed that total on Thursday alone, with a second-inning grand slam against A.J. Achter and a fourth-inning solo shot against Ryan O`Rourke.

Trout, who also walked three times, now has 38 home runs on the season, fourth in the American League behind Nelson Cruz (42), Chris Davis (42) and fellow MVP candidate Josh Donaldson (39).

It was the second time this season, and sixth time in his career, that Trout reached base five times in a game.

The Angels' week of opportunity rolls on Friday, with Andrew Heaney on the mound facing Mike Pelfrey for the Twins. The Astros return home to Houston to host the Oakland Athletics for three games, with Mike Fiers pitching Friday for Houston against Felix Doubront for the A's.