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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: A Weekly AL West Roundup, Week 14

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Houston takes advantage of a Texas downturn to close the gap heading into the All-Star break.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

After a week off, we are back with our weekly AL West roundup. While we may have taken the week off and the Rangers may have too, the Astros just kept chugging and have climbed back within striking distance for both the division and the wildcard race!

AL West Current Standings

Team

Wins

Losses

GB

Texas

54

36

-

Houston

48

41

5.5

Seattle

45

44

8.5

Oakland

38

51

15.5

Los Angeles

37

52

16.5


Looking at the trends, the Rangers strung together their first consecutive losing weeks all year after 11 straight weeks of at least a .500 record. On the other hand the Astros have solidly broken above the break-even line, the Mariners are hanging around the .500 mark and Oakland and Los Angeles are still jockeying for the bottom spot.

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

1. Texas Rangers (2-5)

Oh how things can change in a hurry. The Rangers still hold a 5 ½ game lead in the AL West, but their lead sure doesn’t feel very substantial with the way their pitching staff has looked lately. On the week the Rangers gave up 10 or more runs four times and held their opponent under five only once. Overall, Texas was outscored 63-36 on the week, not a great recipe for success.

Speaking of a hobbled pitching staff, the Rangers called up Kyle Lohse for Saturday’s game. Lohse went five innings and gave up six runs in the Rangers 8-6 loss. In a corresponding move, Nick Martinez was optioned back to Round Rock after pitching to a 6.45 ERA over six appearances with the big league club. Not to beat a dead horse, but the picture is even more grim than it sounds for the pitching, as a large chunk of their struggles have come against the bottom dwelling Minnesota Twins who took three of four this past week and five of seven on the season.

After the break the Rangers will be headed to Chicago to take on an equally cold Cubs team for a three game weekend set.

2. Houston Astros (5-2)

With a fourth straight winning week the Astros are starting to put some pressure on the division leading Rangers. Week 14 saw the Astros post a 5-2 record thanks to a sweep of Seattle and a split with Oakland. While the five win week looks good, the Astros lived on the edge for most of the week playing in five one run games. While the Astros posted a 4-1 record in these one run games, the Oakland series in particular could have gone another direction and completely changed the tone of this post.

Let’s take a quick look at the ninth inning heroics that allowed the Astros to scratch out a split against a surprisingly stingy Oakland pitching staff.

After dropping game one against Oakland, the Astros looked comfortably in control on Friday, but Will Harris and Michael Feliz uncharacteristically struggled to lock things down giving up five runs in the top of the ninth. The five runs gave the Athletics a two run lead heading to the bottom of the inning and sucked the life out of Minute Maid Park. The fans may have been dejected, but the team never gave up fighting until the final out. The fight paid off, as Luis Valbuena came up with two men on and launched a Ryan Madson pitch over the right field wall. The three run home run gave Houston the walk off win snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.

The Astros proceeded to drop Saturday’s game three. Needing a win to salvage a split, Sunday saw the Astros scratch out another close one. The win was possible thanks to an Evan Gattis rbi double in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game at 1-1 and send us to extras. In the next frame, Correa came through with a little help from Danny Valencia for the game winner. Correa reached first on a throwing error bringing home Jake Marisnick and winning the game 2-1.

To open the second half Houston will head north to Seattle for a three game divisional series looking to build off of their recent sweep of the Mariners.

3. Seattle Mariners (2-5)

Seattle fans would probably rather not hear about the Astros three game sweep of the Mariners anymore, so we will move on and focus on the four game set against Kansas City. Seattle managed a split, which left them just above water at the All-Star break. Before we jump into that series though, it is worth noting that Taijuan Walker left his start against the Astros with a foot injury. This was the third straight start in which Walker left due to discomfort, but this time he finally landed himself on the disabled list.

Moving on to Kansas City, the entire series was close, so let’s dig into each game:

Game one: Seattle starter James Paxton did all he could to get the Mariners the win, going eight innings while only giving up two runs. Unfortunately, Steve Cishek was not as sharp giving up a two run double in the bottom of the ninth to Salvador Perez. The Perez walk off gave Kansas City game one by a score of 4-3.

Game two: Seattle got another quality start with Hisashi Iwakuma going 6 2/3 innings and surrendering one run. Cishek looked shaky again, giving up a solo home run to Perez to cut the lead to one. That was the extent of the damage though, as Chisek locked things down from there and closed out the win 3-2.

Game three: Perez continued to terrorize the Mariners, cushioning the lead with a solo shot in the seventh. Perez also came through in the clutch on the defensive side catching Kyle Seager off first base in the eighth inning to help preserve the lead. All three Mariners runs came on Seager’s three run blast in the fourth inning. Ultimately, the Mariners fell by a score of 5-3.

Game four: The Mariners grabbed their third quality start of the series this time with Mike Montgomery on the hill. Montgomery managed to go 6 1/3 inning allowing one run. The offense finally came through big, as they jumped out to an 8-0 lead behind a five run seventh inning. The big inning came thanks to a Robinson Cano two run home run followed by an Adam Lind three run shot.  The Royals fought back to close the gap, but the Mariners held on for an 8-5 win.

Next week the Mariners will host Houston to start the second half with the hopes of revenging last weeks sweep.

4. Oakland A’s (3-4)

Much like our friends in Arlington, the Athletics struggled against the Twins this week. Overall, Minnesota posted a 5-2 week against the AL West and only their second winning week. Their first winning week also came thanks to the AL West after a three game sweep of Seattle to end May. Oakland bounced back from a series loss against Minnesota by grabbing a series split in Houston. Oakland has to feel like they could have come away with more in the four game set, but a split is not a bad outcome by any means.

Taking a deeper look at the Athletics side of the split in Houston, Oakland collected solid starts from a couple of lefties in their two wins in Houston. On Thursday, Rich Hill went six innings giving up one run and collecting ten strikeouts, leading the Athletics to a 3-1 win. Sean Manaea went one further going seven shutout innings Sunday, collecting six strikeouts without a walk. In between the two, Kendall Graveman managed eight strong giving up only two runs on five hits Saturday.

The pitching was definitely there, but it wasn’t meant to be as Oakland dropped two heart breakers thanks to a suddenly struggling Ryan Madson and an untimely error documented above.

Oakland will have their work cut out for them coming out of the break, as they welcome the Toronto Blue Jays to town for a three game weekend set.

5. Los Angeles Angels (4-3)

Los Angeles had a strong start to the week grabbing three of four in Tampa and the first game in Baltimore, but couldn’t finish as they dropped the final two games of the first half. A big part of the turnaround mid-week can be attributed to the loss of C.J. Cron who fractured his hand in Friday’s game in Baltimore. Before landing on the DL, Cron had really picked things up collecting 17 RBIs through the first seven games of the Angels’ ten game road trip. The Angels recalled Ji-Man Choi to take Cron’s roster spot.

Angels’ starting pitcher, Nick Tropeano, did everything he could to overcome the offensive loss, but the bullpen coughed up a late lead Saturday. Tropeano’s night ended after six innings of one run baseball.  Baltimore would add a run in the seventh and another in the eighth to ultimately win 3-2.

Sunday’s starter didn’t fare as well, as Tim Lincecum gave up three runs in 5 2/3 innings. The big blow came on a Chris Davis two run home run in the fourth inning. The Angels offense only managed to register five hits on the night as they fell 4-2.

The Angels stagger into the All-Star break a full 15 games under .500, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have a part to play in shaping the playoff picture. To kick things off in the second half they will welcome the Chicago White Sox to Anaheim for a three game weekend set.

Down on the Farm:

The futures game was last night, so for our down on the farm segment this week I thought it would be nice to look at the players who represented the AL West this year.

USA Roster

Joe Musgrove, RHP, Houston Astros: Age 23: Musgrove started the game for team USA and retired all three men he faced. To make an effective outing even better, Musgrove collected all three outs on the ground.

Nate Smith, LHP, Los Angeles Angels: Age 24: Came in to pitch the sixth inning for team USA and immediately ran into trouble. Smith completed the frame, but not before surrendering four hits, three singles and a double, and two runs.

Alex Bregman, SS, Houston Astros: Age 22: Bregman reached base in each of his first three at bats falling a home run shy of the cycle and finishing 3-5.

Travis Demeritte, 2B Texas Rangers: Age 21: Demeritte started the game at 2B and collected two at bats. While Demeritte failed to register a hit he was able to collect a walk in second inning.

Ryon Healy, 1B-3B, Oakland Athletics: Age 24: Healy did not see the field on defense, but did some damage from the DH position.  Healy finished the night going 2-3 with a double, single and a walk.

World Roster

Ronald Guzman, 1B, Texas Rangers: Age 21: Guzman started at first base for the world team and failed to register a hit before being lifted after the fourth. The night wasn’t a total loss though, as Guzman worked a walk against Reds lefty Amir Garrett.

Tyler O’Neill, OF, Seattle Mariners: Age 21: O’Neill started the game in right field, but failed to register a hit.

Series of the Week:

Texas at Chicago Cubs – Friday, July 15th – Sunday, July 17th

The Astros open up the second half in Seattle for a big divisional showdown and the Athletics welcome the red hot Toronto Blue Jays to Oakland over the weekend, but the biggest series of the week has to be the one taking place at Wrigley Field. Both Chicago and Texas stumbled into the break to varying degrees with Chicago going 2-8 down the stretch and Texas not doing much better at 3-7. At one point both teams held comfortable 10 plus game leads in their respective divisions and will be looking to get back on track as the second half kicks off.

Pitching Matchups:

Most teams have yet to set their rotations for the second half, so we will avoid speculation here and get back to picking individual matchups next week.