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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: A Weekly AL West Roundup -- May 9-15, 2016

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Following a hot start the Astros pitching staff got knocked around in Boston, while the Rangers literally knocked Toronto around in Arlington.

Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

With six weeks in the books the Texas Rangers now hold a slim lead over the Seattle Mariners after an up and down week in the AL West.

AL West Current Standings

Team

Wins

Losses

GB

Texas

22

16

-

Seattle

21

16

0.5

Los Angeles

16

21

5.5

Oakland

16

22

6

Houston

15

24

7.5

Looking at the trends it looks like the Astros have started to level off over the last couple of weeks, but the Rangers and Mariners are making it a two team race as the division beings to split into two distinct tiers.

Now for our weekly trip around the neighborhood to catch up on the happenings for each team in the AL West:

1. Texas Rangers (4-2)

The Rangers fought and scrapped their way to another winning week wrangling the divisional lead from the Mariners. The Rangers lead the division and have easily been the most exciting team to watch so far this season. This week alone the Rangers won three games by a single run, put together a seven run eighth in a comeback win, and were involved in the biggest brawl of the year. So lets try and break all of that down without taking 3000 words to do it.

Game one: The Rangers and the Chicago White Sox go to extra innings, with Todd Frazier winning it in the 12th with a grand slam for the White Sox.

Game two: Down six going into the seventh, the Rangers score one in the seventh followed by the above mentioned seven run eighth inning to steal a 13-11 win over Chicago.

Game three: Down 1-0, 4-2 and 5-4 the Rangers stage three comebacks and finally win the game 6-5 taking the series from Chicago.

Game four: The Toronto Blue Jays come to Arlington and look to continue their recent dominance over Texas, taking game one 5-0 behind a great start from R.A. Dickey. Can you say boring…

Game five: The Rangers took a three run lead into the ninth, but after a two run shot from Justin Smoak followed by a solo shot from Troy Tulowitzki they were headed for extras once again. This time Drew Stubbs got to play hero with a two out homerun in the bottom of the tenth.

Game six: Another one run game between the Rangers and Blue Jays, as the Rangers win 7-6. Baseball was merely the undercard on this day though, as a street fight broke out at Globe Life Park. Following an illegal slide by Jose Bautista, Rougned Odor came up swinging landing a nice right hook against Bautista clearing the benches and cementing the hatred that had been bubbling just below the surface for both of these clubs.

Now if a week like that doesn’t get you excited about baseball I am afraid you must be lost. Looking forward it is a shame that the Rangers and Blue Jays will not face off until a potential playoff series. I would tune in to watch these two battle it out every week. Unfortunately, we will have to settle for a couple of divisional series in Oakland and Houston this week.

2. Seattle Mariners (3-3)

Following last weeks strong showing the Mariners made quick work of the Tampa Bay Rays in a three game series sweep capped by a walk off HR in game three. Having not lost a series since April 11-13 against the division rival Rangers, the Marines seemed to be rolling and looked to push their lead with a three game home set against the struggling Los Angeles Angels.

It wasn’t to be though, as the Angels and their swiss cheese pitching rotation came into Seattle and pulled off a sweep of their own. In game one the Mariners put up a fight, but the bounces were going the Angels way late as the Angeles scored two runs in each of the final three frames. C.J. Cron got to play hero hitting a two run home run in the eighth and following it up with a two run bloop single to win the game in the ninth. In game two, Albert Pujols took the starring role with a three run homerun in the ninth to win the game. Finally, Hector Santiago finished things off for the Angels with eight innings of shutout baseball in Sunday’s 3-0 win.

Looking ahead, the Mariners hit the road this week for a three game set with the AL East leading Baltimore Orioles before heading to Cincinnati for three games with the NL Central basement dwelling Reds.

3. Los Angeles Angels (3-3)

The Angles week was the mirror image of the Mariners, as they came into the week scuffling before being swept by St. Louis Cardinals at home. The first couple of games were not much of a competition, as the Angels only managed to score three combined runs. With the piecemeal rotation they are trotting out these days, they are going to need to provide substantially more run support than that going forward. That is precisely what they did in game three as the Angels bats provided 15 hits highlighted by home runs from Daniel Nava and Albert Pujols. Sadly the Angels pitching failed to make due with ten runs of support, surrendering 12 runs on 18 hits highlighted by two Matt Holliday home runs.

Jumping to the Mariners series, the Angels managed to snap out of their funk and reverse a six game skid taking all three in Seattle. Details on the sweep of Seattle can be found above under the Seattle blurb.

In the upcoming week, the Angels will have to stay hot at the plate if they hope to compete as they play a four game home and away set with the Los Angels Dodgers before heading to Baltimore for a three game weekend series.

4. Oakland A’s (2-4)

Oakland fans would probably rather we all forget about the first three games of week six and pretend they never happened. That is not how it works though, so we will try to make this as quick and painless as possible. The A’s started the week in Boston for a three game set at Fenway. Boston has the best offense in the American League right now and really flexed their muscles against the Oakland pitching staff scoring at least 13 runs in each of the three games and outscoring the A’s by a cumulative total of 40-15. Highlighting the ineptitude of the A’s pitching staff is the fact that none of their starters managed to make it out of the fourth inning.

Moving on to greener pastures, Oakland headed south to face the Rays where they were able to take two of three and salvage what was looking like a disaster of a week. Or should I say Danny Valencia was able to salvage the week. In the two wins that the A’s were able to pick up this week, Valencia hit a total of five home runs picking up seven of Oakland’s 13 RBIs on the series. Valencia wasn’t cheated on his long balls either as four of the five went over 400 feet. In particular, Valencia really showed off Sunday during his three home run game hitting home runs of 425, 429 and 434 feet including what proved to be the game winner in the ninth inning.

Moving forward, Valencia will look to carry his power hitting ways back to Oakland as the A’s host the Rangers for three to start the week before the Yankees come to town for four. The rest of the A’s lineup will need to heat up quick if Oakland hopes to overcome a strong Rangers offense.

5. Houston Astros (3-4)

Coming off of their first winning week of the season, the Astros kicked off week six strong by chasing Cory Kluber in the third inning and grabbing game one from Cleveland. Game two could not of been more of a different story as Trevor Bauer continued his career long domination of the Astros. In the final game of the series nine innings proved not to be enough thanks to a Luke Gregerson blown save. As we headed to extras the rest of the bullpen stepped up and proved they were up to the task with Scott Feldman, Ken Giles, Tony Sipp, Pat Neshek and Michael Feliz combining for seven scoreless frames to keep the Astros alive. Marwin Gonzalez ultimately finished things off in dramatic fashion with a homerun to right field in the bottom of the 16th.

Riding high coming off of a walk off win, the Astros headed to Boston for a four game set. Following an emotional 16-inning marathon, it felt like the Astros may have finally turned the corner and put their April struggles behind them. Unfortunately, heading to Fenway these days is about as appealing as diving headfirst into a wood chipper for opposing pitching staffs. Just ask the A’s…

The Red Sox stayed hot and took three of four to drop the Astros to a losing record on the week. Following the 16-inning marathon, the Astros turned to their ace, Dallas Keuchel, needing a strong start. Sadly, Keuchel’s nightmare season continued, though, as he proceeded to give up eight earned runs in six innings. The Astros ultimately fell 11-1. The Astros put up a fight, showing off their own offensive fire power over the next three games. The Astros grabbed game two by a nail biting score of 7-6 behind a decent showing from Lance McCullers. For it being his first start of the year, McCullers really looked strong against a potent Red Sox lineup. The Astros had a chance in the final two as well, but squandered late leads. Game three was lost thanks to another blown save by Gregerson accompanied by the late game Big Papi heroics that baseball fans have come to expect over the years. Sunday saw another lead vanish, this time thanks to a fielding miscommunication between Carlos Gomez and George Springer that allowed the Red Sox to take the lead 10-9.

The upcoming week looks to be a gauntlet as the Astros travel to Chicago to face the division leading White Sox before heading back to Houston for a three game set with the now AL West leading Rangers. If the Astros hope to have a chance to climb back into the AL West race they are going to have to shore up the late game miscues, especially against good teams like Chicago and Texas over the coming week.

Down on the Farm:

A number of interesting moves were made in the minors this week, so lets take a quick look at some of the noteworthy ones.

First off, the Angels traded Adam McCreery to the Braves in an attempt to shore up their rotation. McCreery is a 6-8, 195 pound left-hander who has reportedly clocked in as high as 95 MPH, but at 23 is still toiling away in rookie ball. It looks like the Braves grabbed a nice lottery ticket in the deal, but McCreery was not a piece that the Angels were expecting to see in Anaheim any time soon.

In Arlington, the Rangers promoted former first overall pick Matt Bush to the majors 12 years after he was drafted. Bush’s story makes for an interesting read, but would take way more time and space than we have here. Lucky for us minor league ball put together a good overview of Bush’s story and a breakdown of his repertoire.

In the Astros system, Alex Bregman moved over to man third base for the first time this season giving fans hope that the Astros can find a way to get him in the same lineup as Altuve and Correa. I for one want to know, how soon can he be in Houston?

What to Watch:

Pitching Matchups:

Jered Weaver (3-2) vs Clayton Kershaw (5-1) – Tuesday, May 17 at Dodgers Stadium

The Freeway Series is in full swing this week with the Angels and Dodgers playing a home and away four game set. On paper the Dodgers maintain a pretty substantial lead where pitching is concerned and this game should just accentuate that with Kershaw having come out of the gate firing this year and Weaver continuing to fade late in his career with diminishing velocity. The Angels are coming off of a strong series against Seattle, but you tune in to this one to see Kershaw.

Nathan Karns (3-1) vs Chris Tillman (5-1) – Thursday, May 19 at Baltimore

While not your typical high powered pitching matchup, this game pits two division leaders against each other in what should be a competitive series. Both teams have been hot with the bats and will pose serious challenges for the opposing pitchers. Tillman for his part will look to build upon a stellar first month in which he has pitched to a 2.58 ERA. Karns on the other side has also pitched to a respectable 3.51 ERA and is coming off of his fourth consecutive quality start. So, while this matchup may lack the name recognition it should prove to be a battle.

Sony Gray (3-4) vs Marashiro Tanaka (1-0) – Friday, May 20 in Oakland

In a battle of aces, this matchup will pit pitchers moving in opposite directions. While Tanaka is coming off of a six run shellacking from Kansas City he still sports a strong 3.11 ERA on the season and has looked sharp for most of the early season. Gray on the other hand sports an ERA right at 6 thanks to 18 runs given up in his last 13 innings. Gray and Tanaka will both look to get back on track Friday and help their respective teams right the ship in what has been a disappointing season for both clubs.

Series:

Texas at Houston – Friday, May 20 – Sunday, May 22

There are a number of fun matchups this week, most of which I have chosen to highlight in this weeks pitching matchups to watch. From the Freeway Series in Los Angeles to a battle of playoff contenders as Seattle travels across the country to take on a hot Baltimore team, but one series stands above the rest as the Rangers travel down I-45 for a weekend set in Houston. With Cole Hamels not slated to start in this series and Dallas Keuchel continuing to struggle with his command we could be in store for a barn burner with HRs finding the train tracks and balls rolling up Tal’s Hill all weekend long.

*Pitching matchups are based on current projections from ESPN.com