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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: A Weekly AL West Roundup -- May 2-8, 2016

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The Astros finally break through with a winning week thanks to contributions up and down the lineup.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the first edition of our weekly AL West roundup! My hope for this space is that it will serve as your one-stop shop to catch up on the AL West race and all that has happened over the past week. The format is fluid, so if you have any suggestions or thoughts just leave a comment. Without further ado, let's get down to business and talk about baseball!

After five weeks, the Mariners have laid claim to a half game lead for the division and a six and a half game lead on the Astros.

AL West Current Standings

Team

Wins

Losses

+/-

Seattle

18

13

5

Texas

18

14

4

Oakland

14

18

-4

Los Angeles

13

18

-5

Houston

12

20

-8


Over the last week, the Athletics and Angels took a nosedive helping the Astros to climb back toward the pack as they try to claw their way out of the last place. With their first winning week of the season, the Astros were unable to make up any ground on the divisional lead thanks to equally strong week from the Mariners who actually finished the week with a 5-2 record, one game better than the Astros.

Each week the chart below, showing how many games above or below .500 each team is, will be updated to show how the divisional race is trending.

Week 5 Divisional Trend

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

1. Seattle Mariners (5-2)

After starting the year with a couple of slow weeks, the Mariners have steadily climbed up the rankings and now hold the divisional lead if only by half a game.

The Mariners were clicking on all cylinders over the past week hitting over .300 as a team with the heart of the order leading the way. Robinson Cano leads the way with four home runs and an average over .500 while Kyle Seager started to show signs of life with a couple of home runs and a solid average to boot. Cano, coming off of a still solid if unspectacular down year, is firing on all cylinders to start the year and now sits with 11 HR, 32 RBI and a .306 average.

On the pitching side, the Mariners continued what has been a very strong year by not giving up more than four earned runs during any game over the past week. The Mariners currently sit with a team ERA of 3.03, a number that if maintained over full season points to an extremely successful season.

In the upcoming week, the Mariners will host the Tampa Bay Rays and Los Angeles Angels each for three-game sets.

2. Texas Rangers (4-3)

The Rangers week was a Jekyll and Hyde tale of two series. To open the week they traveled to Toronto where they grabbed game one of a four-game set, but old playoff demons snuck back in as the Blue Jays then proceeded to reel off three straight spirit crushing wins. In game two, former Ranger Justin Smoak hit a game-tying solo shot in the ninth inning and the game-winning two-run shot in the bottom of the tenth. Game three of the four-game set saw more dramatics as Russell Martin delivered a walk-off hit of his own to lift the Jays to a 4-3 victory. In the final game of the series, the Toronto jumped on Texas starter Derek Holland early and often throwing up a five-run first inning only to follow it up with a six-run third. The Rangers will get a chance to redeem themselves as the Blue Jays travel to Arlington for a three-game set this weekend.

The Rangers were able to put a rough series behind them quickly as the salvaged a 4-3 week and road trip with a sweep of the Tigers in Detroit. The quick rebound can be attributed in large part to a brilliantly pitched opening game by Texas ace, Cole Hamels. Hamels went seven innings allowing only one hit and racking up nine strikeouts. Coming off of a three-game skid, that is exactly what you look for your age to do, stop the bleeding and jumpstart your team. The Rangers provided plenty of run support too, racking up 23 runs in the three-game set and winning each game convincingly.

The Rangers look to face a tough task in the coming week as they welcome a hot Chicago White Sox team and the above-mentioned Blue Jays to Arlington for three-game series. They do manage to avoid facing Chris Sale and Marcus Stroman though, so they stand a decent chance of putting together another winning week.

3. Los Angeles Angels (1-5)

The bad news came like an avalanche this week for the Los Angeles Angels. Not only did they go 1-5 in the week after finishing out a sweep at the hands of the Rays Sunday afternoon, but they now find themselves running out of warm bodies to put on the mound.

The Ace: This week the Angels got the unfortunate news that Garrett Richards will need to undergo Tommy John surgery and is out for the season.

Next Man Up: With Richards gone, Andrew Heaney would be the logical man to step into the top spot in the rotation, except for the fact that he too is on the shelf with a torn UCL and will likely join Richards in the Tommy John club.

The Rest: CJ Wilson is still out and Tyler Skaggs was recently shut down in the minors due to bicep tendonitis.

To make matters worse the Angels defense may have taken a major hit on Sunday as Andrelton Simmons left the game with an apparent injury and will go for an MRI on Monday.

A rough season doesn’t look to get any better in the upcoming week either as the Angels will welcome the Cardinals to Anaheim for three games before traveling to Seattle for a weekend set. The most interesting thing to watch for this week will be just who takes the mound for the Halos, so check back next week to see how things shake how for the suddenly short-handed Angels.

4. Oakland A’s (1-5)

Oakland matched the Angels with a 1-5 record, but fortunately for them did not catch the same injury bug. The A’s opened the week losing three to the Mariners. After rain postponed the opening game of the Baltimore series, the A’s were able to snap a four-game skid by taking the first game of Saturdays double header. Unfortunately, for the A's, that was where the winning stopped.

The futility reached its peak Sunday, as the A’s pitching staff surrendered six home runs to the potent Orioles offense.

Rookie Sean Manaea allowed four runs over five innings against Seattle mirroring his stat line from the week before against Houston. Manaea was cruising against the Mariners registering four scoreless innings before everything fell apart as he tried to make his way through the Mariners lineup a third time, giving up a four-run fifth driven in large part by a monster two-run shot off the bat of Nelson Cruz. Manaea will look to finally break through with the first decision of his young career when he takes the mound against the Red Sox at Fenway.

Coming into the week expectations were low facing two strong opponents. In the upcoming week, the schedule doesn't get too much nicer, as the A's travel to the east coast for a six-game road trip against the AL East. The A's will start with three games against the aforementioned Red Sox before heading down to Tampa for a weekend set with the Rays.

5. Houston Astros (4-3)

The Astros finally broke through for a winning week thanks to a series win over Minnesota and a split of the four-game series with the division-leading Mariners. On the offensive side of the ball, Altuve continued to murder baseballs, but the bottom half of the order finally started to contribute. Of note, Jason Castro started the week off hot and hopefully has tweaked his approach in a way that can be sustained going forward. Tyler White and Marwin Gonzalez both showed signs of life in the Seattle series and in particular White looked good Sunday smoking two doubles down the line.

The pitching looked to be rounding into form too. Dallas Keuchel had a two-start week which saw him snap his home winning streak but bounces back to post a quality start against Seattle. Chris Devenski continued his solid run going six strong innings only to have the bullpen blow his chance at his first win. I think we will all agree that if Devenski can maintain even close to the level of production he has shown so far, the Astros will find a spot for him in the rotation even once Lance McCullers ultimately returns.

Looking forward to next week the Astros will face a tough test starting with Corey Kluber and the Cleveland Indians for a three-game series before heading to Fenway to face the Red Sox for a four-game set. Hopefully, the bats can stay hot and the pitching will continue to round into form leading to a second straight winning week, as they are going to need to string a number of winning weeks together to climb out of their early season hole.

Down on the Farm:


Minor League HR Trend

In this section, we will look down to the farm and highlight a player or team from one of the organizations in the AL West. Hopefully, this will serve to keep track of some of the up and coming players we can expect to see in dugouts around the division in the coming seasons.

For the first installment of this divisional roundup, I will leave you with the above chart of minor league home run counts. Of note, the Rangers and Angeles bookend the chart with the Rangers affiliates having racked up more than double the number of long balls as the Angels. Some of this can probably be attributed to the hitting environments of each team, but the size of the current gap cannot be reasoned away by environmental circumstances. Los Angeles current struggles at the major league level may not be remedied with reinforcements from the farm anytime soon while the Rangers may be able to bolster an already powerful lineup with more power as the season progresses.

What to Watch:


Pitching Matchups:

Dallas Keuchel (2-4) vs David Price (4-1) – Thursday, May 12 @ Boston

Keuchel will get another chance to try and put his early season woes behind him as he takes the mound Thursday in Boston. Keuchel is coming off of a quality start against Seattle in which he went seven innings allowing two earned runs, but his ERA still stands at an elevated 4.70. David Price, the new Boston ace, has had his own struggles to start the season as evidenced by his 6.75 ERA. Looking at Price’s 4-1 record, though, you would never suspect how much he has struggled to this point. This matchup should be interesting to watch as both races look to reestablish themselves and demonstrate that early season velocity drops are nothing to worry about.

Taijuan Walker (2-2) vs Chris Archer (2-4) – Wednesday, May 11th @ Seattle

Wednesday offers two interesting pitching matchups. In matchup number one Taijuan Walker will take the mound for the Seattle Mariners and face off against Chris Archer of the Tampa Bay Rays. This is interesting from a divisional standpoint, as Walker was pulled early in his start against the Astros after being noticeably hittable with lower velocity. Walkers health and how he responds to a rough night in Houston could be big going forward as the AL West race takes shape.

Cole Hamels (4-0) vs Mat Latos (5-0) – Wednesday, May 11th @ Texas

The second matchup to watch is a battle of two unbeaten pitchers. On one side, Hamels is doing exactly what the Rangers expected and hoped he would do when they traded for him last summer. On the other side, Matt Latos is back to pitching the way he did a couple of seasons ago in San Diego. Latos had struggled mightily the last few years and bounced around the league as a result. Tune in to see if Latos can build on his early success with Chicago.

Series:

Toronto comes to Texas for a three fame weekend series May 13-15th. After ousting the Rangers from the postseason a year ago in what can only be described as epic fashion the Blue Jays have carried over the momentum into the 2016 season with two walks-off hits (one in extra innings) and a 12-2 beating in a three-game sweep of the Rangers in Toronto. Texas will look to change their fortunes back home and rid themselves of their Canadian demons.

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