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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: A Weekly AL West Roundup, Week 8

Astros break through with first three game winning streak thanks to a record setting week from the bullpen.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Eight weeks in and the Astros team that we all expected finally makes an appearance grabbing their first sweep of the season and jumping back toward the pack.

AL West Current Standings

Team

Wins

Losses

GB

Texas

29

21

-

Seattle

28

21

0.5

Los Angeles

22

28

7

Oakland

22

29

7.5

Houston

22

29

7.5

Taking a quick peak at the trends, we are back to a distinct two-tier system as the Astros and the California teams have clumped back up, while Seattle fell back to a virtual tie with the Rangers.

week 8

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

1. Texas Rangers (4-2)

The Rangers opened the week with a 2-0 loss against the Angeles, as Nick Tropeano and the Los Anglese bullpen combined for the complete game shut out. Texas rebounded to win the final two and take the series. Texas followed a similar pattern in their weekend showdown with Pittsburg, dropping game one before fighting back to win the series.

While the results look great and I’m sure Rangers fans are thrilled with a 4-2 week, a couple of roster moves claimed the limelight this week and that is what we are going to focus on here.

First, Yu Darvish is back and the rest of the league has been put on notice. Darvish started Saturday going five innings with seven strikeouts and reportedly hitting 98 mph on the radar gun. Having dazzled in his minor league rehab stint, Darvish looked to be in midseason form against the Pirates in his 2016 mlb debut.

Secondly, Rougned Odor’s appeal was heard over the past week. Odor’s suspension was reduced from eight games to seven. Odor began serving his suspension Friday missing the entirety of the Pittsburg series.

Looking forward the Rangers head to Cleveland for three before returning home for a huge series with the Mariners next weekend. Odor will have to sit the Cleveland series and miss game one against Seattle, but should be ready to go after that.

2. Seattle Mariners (2-4)

The Mariners opened the week with a shutout loss at the hands of the Oakland A’s, but the offense didn’t stay quite for long. Game two saw the Mariners storm back for a 6-5 win punctuated by a walk off two run homerun off the bat of Leonys Martin. The walk off seemed to spark the offense, as the Mariners grabbed the momentum and ran away with a big ten run win in game three. In particular Adam Lind really woke up in the series finale belting homeruns in the second and third innings. Lind wasn’t done either, as he proceeded to collect two more hits on his way to a 4 for 4 day accounting for 3 runs and 6 RBIs.

Just as it looked like the Mariners were on their way to another strong week the wheels fell off…

The Minnesota Twins, owners of the AL’s worst record were coming to town and the Mariners were thinking sweep. Unfortunately, Joe Mauer and Miguel Sano of the Twins were thinking sweep as well. Mauer and Sano each collected home runs in all three games of the series powering the Twins to a three game series sweep.

Week nine will kick off with a home and away four game interleague set with San Diego before the Mariners turn their attention to the division leading Rangers in an AL West showdown.

3. Los Angeles Angels (2-4)

The state of Texas was not kind to the Angels over the past week. To open the week the Angels traveled to Arlington where they grabbed game one, but dropped the series. The Angels then returned home hoping for different results, but Texas followed in the form of the Houston Astros. In much the same fashion as their first series, Los Angels quickly grabbed game one before stumbling to a series loss.

On a brighter note, Albert Pujols continued his ascent up the home run leaderboard over the past week hitting home runs number 569, 570 and 571 passing Rafael Palmeiro in the process. Pujols now sits at twelfth on the all time list, two behind former Minnesota great Harmon Killebrew and only ten away from catching Mark McGwire and cracking the top ten.

On the other end of the baseball age spectrum, Mike Trout continued his own assault on the record books joining his aging teammate in an exclusive club with his first inning homerun off of Dallas Keuchel Friday night. The homerun was Trout’s 150th making him only the eighth player to hit 150 homeruns and score 500 runs before their age 25 season. The other seven members of this exclusive club are Mickey Mantle, Mel Ott, Jimmie Foxx, Frank Robinson, Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr and Pujols.

Trout and Pujols continue to strike fear in pitching staffs league wide, but in the upcoming week it will be the Detroit Tigers’ and Pittsburg Pirates’ staffs that have to face them. Los Angeles better hope the rest of the lineup steps up to provide support, as another losing week could see them sliding to the bottom of the division.

4. Oakland A’s (3-3)

The past week saw Oakland sandwich quality wins around a three game winning streak. While a 3-3 week is not a terrible result for the A’s, the Astros surge has put Oakland in a tie for 4th in the division and on notice that another .500 week could find them alone in the basement.

The week started with a trip to Seattle and a shut out 5-0 win behind eight strong innings from Rich Hill. Taijuan Walker held up his end of the bargain too, as the game stayed locked 0-0 into the seventh. Gotta love when you highlight a pitching matchup and the both sides deliver a gem. Ultimately Steven Vogt would put one in the seats in the seventh giving Hill and the A’s more than enough offense to take game one.

For a while it looked like the Athletics were going to keep rolling thanks to a four run sixth, but alas it was not to be. As mentioned above, Martin would walk it off and grab game two for Seattle. Zach Neal would rather forget game three ever happened, as he got tattooed for seven runs in only four innings and Oakland got run out of town with their tales between their legs on the wrong end of a 13-3 rubber match.

Once they got back home, it took a little while for Oakland to settle back in and the team dropped the opening game against the Detroit Tigers. Oakland broke out for a season high twelve runs in game two and staged a late comeback in game three grabbing both gams and the series to split the week.

Oakland will start week nine with three games against the suddenly hot Twins before heading to Houston for a weekend series.

4. Houston Astros (5-1)

This is exactly the type of week the Astros ordered: a series sweep, two thirteen inning wins and a record setting bullpen performance.

The week started with a visit from the Baltimore Orioles, which resulted in three closely contested games. Close games normally come down to timely hitting and bullpen depth and the Orioles got a first hand look at the later against the Astros. Houston’s bullpen combined for 26 strikeouts giving up only one run over fifteen innings over the course of the series. As a whole the Houston pitching staff combined for 52 strikeouts against Oriole hitters to set the MLB record for a three game series.

Mike Fiers failed to keep the momentum rolling for the Astros, failing to get out of the fourth inning in giving up seven runs in the opener against Los Angeles. The rest of the staff stayed hot, as the Astros grabbed the next two games to take the series. Game three came with the added suspense of bonus baseball. Carlos Correa was set to get Sunday’s game off, but with the game dragging on into the 13th inning, A.J. Hinch turned to the bench and called upon Correa. Correa quickly delivered with a three run homerun, which ultimately proved to be the game winner.

The upcoming week holds a seven game set thanks to an interleague home and away set with Arizona and a home series with Oakland. Look for the Astros to stay hot against a very winnable slate in week nine.

Down on the Farm:

Taking our weekly look down at the farm, we have a rare divisional trade to look into. While it will most likely prove trivial in the long run, the Mariners and Rangers made a minor league trade over the past week, so lets do some quick due diligence.

For the move itself, the Mariners acquired minor league outfielder Patrick Kivlehan from the Rangers for a player to be named or cash.

Kivlehan was originally drafted by the Mariners in 2012, but was sent to the Rangers this past December as a part of a larger five-player deal.

The 6’2" 215 lb righty played both football and baseball at Rutgers. Focused on football for much of his college career, Kivlehan only played one year of baseball, which saw him hit a robust .392 with 14 homeruns and 24 stolen bases. After being named Big East Player of the Year, Kivlehan was drafted by the Mariners and has proceeded to hit .280 with 71 homeruns in just over 2,000 plate appearances in the minors. Kivlehan has seen time at 1B, 3B and all three outfield positions during his minor league career and could serve as an interesting utility bench bat for the Mariners if he can rediscover his bat at AAA.

What to Watch:

Pitching Matchups:

Dallas Keuchel (3-6) vs Zach Grienke (6-3) – Thursday, June 2nd in Houston

Outside of a couple of first inning homeruns, Keuchel looked strong this past week in Los Angeles. Keuchel will look to build on his success, as the Astros return to the friendly confines of Minute Maid Park to take on the Diamondbacks. Waiting for the Astors when they get home will be former Cy Young winning pitcher Zack Greinke. Greinke has been battling through his own early season struggles this year, but has looked more like his old self in recent week with a 3.82 ERA in May compared to the 5.50 he pitched to in March and April. So, here is to hoping (even if unlikely) for a vintage 2015 Keuchelangelo masterpiece and another stinker from Greinke.

Taijuan Walker (2-5) vs Yu Darvish (1-0) – Friday, June 3rd in Arlington

The main event of the series of the week will be going down on Friday night in Arlington. Darvish will look to build off of a strong first start, which saw him go five innings with seven strikeouts. Darvish was held to 81 pitches in his season debut and will most likely be held to a similar pitch count for his next couple of starts. On the other side, Walker’s overall numbers are strong with a 3.31 ERA and 50 strikeouts. While his overall numbers are still solid, Walker's numbers ballooned in May, as Walker surrendered nine homeruns and only made it through six innings once. Walker will have to be much sharper if the Mariners want to compete in this one.

Series:

Seattle Mariners at Texas Rangers – Friday, June 3rd – Sunday, June 5th

Series of the week was about as obvious as they get for week nine with a big divisional battle scheduled for the weekend. The Rangers and Mariners will most likely enter this series within spitting distance of each other playing for the top spot in the AL West. Opposing aces will watch from the dugout for this series, as Cole Hamels and Felix Hernandez are not scheduled to take the mound. By no means will this matchup be completely starved for pitching though with Darvish and Walker facing off in the opener as highlighted above. Sunday will also feature a pretty decent matchup, as Colby Lewis and Hisashi Iwakuma will prepare to square off. These teams will also face off in week ten, so the next couple of weeks could see a true shift in power to finally build some separation at the top of the division. On the other hand, they could split and give the rest of the division a chance to muddy the picture even further.

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