On the back of a strong week the Rangers have put a stranglehold on the AL West lead once again. A full six games back the Astros need a strong showing against their Arlington neighbors this week if they want any realistic chance at making a run at the division.
A couple of long running trends were broken this past week, as the Rangers grabbed their first winning week in a month and the Astros had their first losing week in six weeks. The timing of the two reversals could not have come at a worse time for the Astros and their fans, as they prepare for a showdown with Texas this coming weekend. At the bottom of the division the Angeles and Athletics have fought back to deadlock once again.
This week’s walk around the division will have to be abbreviated, as computer troubles have put me a little behind the eight ball, but let’s go through a high level look at the happenings of week 16 nonetheless. So, with that said here is our weekly trip around the AL West:
1. Texas Rangers (5-2)
The week started out with a familiar feel for the Rangers, as Texas dropped two of three against Oakland. The series further exasperated the feeling that Texas had to make a move or resign themselves to the eventual loss of the division lead to Houston. Then came a visit from Kansas City. It is only one series, but after a four game sweep of the Royals, Texas and the AL West for that matter could not have a different feel. The Rangers added three full games to the division lead over the weekend putting the pressure squarely back on Houston’s shoulders going forward.
Next week the Rangers hit the road for a three game set in Baltimore before heading to Houston for a pivotal weekend series.
2. Houston Astros (1-5)
Oh how a week can change the feel of a clubhouse. Last week the Astros were coming off a dominant sweep of the Angels, were preparing for the arrival of top prospect Alex Bregman and fans were worried about how they were going to get everyone playing time. A week later and Bregman has one hit, Luis Valbuena, Carlos Gomez and Marwin Gonzalez are all battling injuries of varying degrees and they are back to six games out for the division.
In terms of actual results, Houston dropped two of three to the New York Yankees to open the week before heading to Detroit where the wheels all but fell off. Detroit ambushed Houston pitching in game one, chasing Colin McHugh early and running away with a 14-6 win. As is often the case following a high scoring game, game two was a pitching duel. Detroit led 1-0 heading into the ninth, but the Astros fought back to grab a 2-1 lead heading to the bottom of the inning. Will Harris came in and retired the first two batters, but Detroit refused to go quietly scrapping their way to two runs and a walk off win. In game three, Detroit was back to their high scoring ways as they got to Dallas Keuchel early and coasted to an 11-0 win.
Next week the Astros will have to get back to their winning ways quickly as they welcome Toronto to Houston for a four game set before facing off against the Rangers.
3. Seattle Mariners (2-3)
Balancing between buying and selling, the Mariners continue to sit around the .500 mark. Looking at the results, Seattle wrapped up an eight game road trip this week by splitting a pair of games in Pittsburg and losing two of three in Chicago.
Next week the Mariners will welcome Boston to town for a four game series before facing off against the Angels over the weekend.
4. Oakland A’s (2-4)
Kicking off a nine game road trip, Oakland grabbed two of three in Texas before getting swept in a three game set in Cleveland. It was a tale of two series, as Oakland had a legitimate shot at the sweep in Arlington, but were doomed by an Adrian Beltre walk off home run in game one Monday night.
Looking toward next week, Oakland will wrap up their road trip with a three game set in Los Angeles before playing the Cubs in Oakland over the weekend. Perhaps more interesting will be whether the Athletics decide to make any moves as the deadline looms this afternoon.
4. Los Angeles Angels (4-3)
The Angels continue to play well in the second half (excluding that three game series against Houston) as they put together another winning week. To start the week the Angels traveled to Kansas City where they took two of three. Of note, Tyler Skaggs made his first start of the season on Tuesday contributing 5 1/3 innings toward a shutout effort from the Los Angeles staff. Following the Kansas City series, the Angels faced off against Boston, splitting a four game set. All four games in the Boston series were competitive as the margins of victory were 1, 4, 3 and 2 respectively.
Next week Los Angeles will welcome Oakland to town for the latest battle of the basement series before heading to Seattle for the weekend.
Down on the Farm:
Due to time constraints we will forgo this section of our weekly breakdown. Don’t get too depressed by this omission, as I plan on putting together a more in depth look at the effect of the trade deadline on the division later this week. So check back mid-week to get some updates on the state of farms all across the AL West.
Series of the Week
Texas Rangers at Houston Astros – Friday, August 5th – Sunday, August 7th
The matchup of the week comes to Texas, as the Rangers head down I-45 looking to continue their season long dominance of the Astros. If the Astros can’t find an answer for their struggles against Texas they could very well find themselves out of the division race by the end of the week and barely keeping their heads above water in the wildcard standings. It is still early to call anything a must win, but the Astros have to be looking at this series knowing that a sweep could be absolutely devastating.
Rich Hill (9-3) vs John Lester (2-5) – Friday, August 5th
Man, what a strong matchup this could be. If Oakland chooses to keep Hill then this becomes one of the premier matchups of the week not only in the AL West, but in the majors. On that front Oakland is currently engaged simultaneously in trade and extension talks surrounding Hill. If Hill is not traded today, then this be Hill’s first start since July 20th and bears watching closely as it could play a major role in said extension talks.
Tyler Skaggs (1-0) at James Paxton (3-5) – Saturday, August 6th
This is a matchup that you should tune into with the intention of checking in on Skaggs. At one point a top prospect, Skaggs has missed extended time due to injury, but looked great in his first start back. Skaggs could be a huge boost to the Angels pitching staff going forward and could be a piece that Los Angeles looks to build around in upcoming seasons as other young injured starters such as Garrett Richards return to the mound.
Lance McCullers (6-4) vs Yu Darvish (2-2) – Sunday, August 7th
The final game of the cross state matchup sets up a battle of aces. Both players have followed a very similar path this season, as they began the season on the DL, but have looked dominant since returning. This could be a matchup where neither pitcher makes it out of the sixth inning, as both players have struggled with pitch counts at times, but that is something both coaching staffs deal with if the results and the strikeouts keep piling up.