clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: A Weekly AL West Roundup, Week 20

New, 4 comments

The wildcard race heats up as seven teams jostle for two spots and sit within four games of punching a playoff ticket.

Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

With 20 weeks in the books, and only six weeks remaining on the regular season schedule we are officially turning for home and the hunt for October is in full swing. Looking at the standings, not a much has changed over the past week as everyone holds steady in their positioning.

AL West Current Standings

Team

Wins

Losses

GB

Texas

73

52

-

Seattle

66

57

6

Houston

64

60

8.5

Oakland

53

71

19.5

Los Angeles

52

72

20.5


Looking at our handy trend chart it is easy to see that the Mariners have revived their season, as their current nine games above .500 ties their season high. The Rangers continue to hold off the surging Mariners though by slowly trending upward as well sitting at 21 games over .500, one off their season high.

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

1. Texas Rangers (4-2)

Another solid week, as the Rangers have now strung together four consecutive weeks of at least .500 baseball. Getting things started the Rangers quickly swept aside a floundering Oakland team. In game one the Athletics got out to a 2-0 lead after plating runs in the first two innings. Two runs would not be enough though, as Adrian Beltre went yard with a fifth inning grand slam to take the game 5-2. Game two saw a crazy finish, as the Rangers took a one run lead into the ninth inning. To keep hopes alive, Valencia singled in a run to send the game to extras. Keona Kela came in to pitch the tenth and promptly gave up the lead behind a Yonder Alonso double and Ryon Healy RBI single. With a two run tenth, the Athletics looked to have control, but as the Rangers have done all year, they fought back plating three in the bottom of the tenth culminating in a walk off hit by pitch for Rougned Odor. The Rangers ultimately won game two 5-4. The dramatics were lacking in the final game of the series, as Yu Darvish pitched an effective seven innings on the way to a 6-2 Rangers win.

The Rangers pushed their winning streak to four behind a solid 6-2 win in the opening game of the Tampa Bay series. Things went downhill from there though, as the Rangers would go on to drop the final two games in Tampa Bay by a score of 8-2 and 8-4 respectively.

Turning to week 21, the Rangers will head to Cincinnati for two games against the Reds before returning to Arlington to face off against the Cleveland Indians in a four game weekend set.

2. Seattle Mariners (4-3)

Week 20 was a week that Mariners fans spent on the edge of their collective seats. With seven games on the schedule, the Mariners played five one run games and seemed to be in a fight to the finish every night.

The Mariners opened the week in Los Angeles where they would go on to split a four game series. Game one saw the Mariners win 3-2 behind a strong night from Felix Hernandez and Nelson Cruz’s 30th home run. Game two went the other way, as the Angels fought back for a 7-6 win to snap an eleven game losing streak. The winning blow for the Angels came in the eighth inning, as Jefry Marte went deep to tie the game at six and Cliff Pennington tripled home the winning run. As the see saw continued, the Mariners found themselves on top, taking game three 4-3. In the final game of the series, the Mariners hit three home runs, but were unable to keep the Angels bats in check falling 6-4.

In their second series of the week, the Mariners faced off against the Milwaukee Brewers. The first two games went exactly as the Mariners wanted, as Seattle took both games and was in position for a sweep with a win Sunday. Things looked good early, as the Mariners jumped out to an early lead and held steady going into the ninth up 6-3. That is where things got hairy with Keon Broxton and Chris Carter hitting homeruns and Scotter Gennett adding the go ahead RBI single. The Mariners were unable to answer in the bottom of the inning pinning Tom Wilhelmsen with the loss for his ninth inning meltdown.

The Mariners will have to bounce back quickly as week 21 will kick off with our first matchup of the week. The big series sees Seattle take the field against the New York Yankees for three games. Up next to close out the week, the Mariners will head to Chicago to play four against the White Sox.

3. Houston Astros (3-3)

Week 20 opened up much the same way that week 19 ended, with the Astros dropping the first three games to push their losing streak to a season long five games. The first two games completed the season series with the St. Louis Cardinals and evened the season series after the Astros took two in St. Louis in June. Game one saw Dallas Keuchel stumble again, giving up six earned runs in only five innings of work. The offense tried to stay close, plating five runs of their own, but ultimately falling 8-5. Of particular note, Alex Bregman did manage to hit his first major league home run in the bottom of the first inning. Game two was not much of a competition, as the Cardinals grabbed an early lead and ran away with an 8-2 win.

As the Astros headed to Baltimore for a pivotal series with wild card implications, things went from bad to worse, at least initially, as the Astros dropped the opening game 13-5 behind six homeruns. 12 of the 14 runs were attributed to recent minor league call ups Joe Musgrove and James Hoyt. Game two looked to be headed in the same direction, as Colin McHugh surrendered four first inning homeruns including back to back to back homeruns to Many Machado, Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo. The Astros answered with a five run inning of their own in the second to claim a 6-5 lead and ultimately would respond with four homeruns to take an exciting 15-8 win. With the Astros’ offense awakened, the Orioles never really stood a chance in game three, falling 12-2. Of note in the twelve run offensive barrage were Bregmans’s third homerun of the week and Jason Castro’s four RBI night. Staked to an early lead, Mike Fiers came through with seven quality innings. In the final game of the week, the Orioles and Astros only combined for eight runs with the Astros taking the series behind a rain delayed 5-3 win. Over the course of the four game series, the Astros and Orioles combined to put on a show with 63 runs scored behind 25 homeruns.

Sunday's series finale against the Orioles also saw the much anticipated debut of Yulieski Gurriel. Gurriel started at DH and finished the game 1-2 with a walk. Gurriel left with a strained hamstring that is being described as day to day, so look for Gurriel to make his second appearance early in the upcoming week.

Houston will look to stay hot offensively as they wrap up their road trip this week with three games in Pittsburgh. When they get home, the Astros will welcome the Tampa Bay Rays to town for three games.

4. Oakland A’s (1-5)

With our focus, as well as that of baseball fans across the country turning to playoff races we will take a step back in our recaps for Oakland and Los Angeles just hitting the high notes instead of digging in too deeply.

To open the week, Oakland was swept by the Rangers as noted above before dropping two of three in Chicago to the White Sox. To add to a week to forget (in a season to forget) the A’s apparently had a physical altercation between Billy Butler and Danny Valencia this past Friday. While details have not been provided, Butler has missed the last two games for Oakland, while Valencia sat Sunday. It appears everyone involved is content to handle the mishap in house, but the uncertainty and cloud that it hangs over the clubhouse is not a good look. In particular, as Oakland continues to explore the trade market before the August 31st deadline.

Back to actual baseball, next week Oakland welcomes Cleveland to town for three games before heading to St. Louis for the weekend.

5. Los Angeles Angels (3-4)

A quick rundown of the past week, the Angels opened the week by splitting a four game series with Seattle as is detailed above and dropped two of three against the Yankees.

The biggest story coming out of Los Angeles right now is Albert Pujols, who continues his climb up the all-time home run leaderboard. On Saturday, Albert Pujols launched a solo shot against the Yankees to give him 583 career homeruns, now tied with Mark McGuire for ninth on the all-time list. Look for Pujols to pass McGuire here in the coming week and set his sights on Frank Robinson’s 586 home runs. That is as far as Pujols will get in 2016, as Sammy Sosa holds the seventh spot with 609 home runs, which barring a crazy power binge in the last six weeks of the season.

Looking toward next season, Pujols joining the 600 home run club and Adrian Beltre reaching 3,000 hits should give the AL West some excitement and national attention.

Back to the current season, a tough week lies ahead, as the Angels head out on the road to face two playoff contenders. To get things started, the Angels will square off with the Blue Jays for three games before heading to the Motor City where they will face the Detroit Tigers in a three game weekend set.

The Hunt for October:

As we turn for the homestretch, it is time that we pivot our attention to the playoff picture. Instead of including a weekly look down at the farm, we will now be focusing on the AL wildcard race, as two teams in the AL West find themselves in the thick of things.

Wild Card Standings

Team

Wins

Losses

GB

Boston

69

54

+2

Baltimore

67

56

-

Seattle

66

57

1

Detroit

65

59

2.5

Kansas City

64

60

3.5

Houston

64

60

3.5

New York

63

60

4

As can be seen above, the AL wild card race is crowded to say the least, as recent surges from Kansas City and New York have pushed the number of contenders to seven for only two spots. The Toronto Blue Jays could easily be lumped into this grouping as well, as the AL East lead is only half a game. On the other hand Cleveland has pushed their lead in the central to seven games and Texas continues to hold a six game cushion over Seattle for the AL West.

Series of the Week:

Seattle Mariners vs New York Yankees - Monday, August 22nd – Wednesday, August 24th

Cleveland faces off against Texas in the early part of the week, but with both teams holding a more than solid division lead we will turn our focus to a matchup of wildcard contenders. The Mariners have gone 14-6 in their last 20 to put themselves in a strong position to push their way into the playoffs thanks to the implementation of two wild cards.

Boston Red Sox vs Kansas City Royals – Friday, August 26th – Sunday, August 28th

How about a double dip this week? While you should tune in for the series in Seattle to kick off the week, the big weekend matchup is at Fenway. The Red Sox prepare to welcome a suddenly surging Kansas City team to town for a three game set. It sure feels like we have been here before with the Royals. Somehow as summer winds down and school starts up again the Royals just have a way of kicking things into gear and charging toward the playoffs. Projection systems don’t like them and they honestly have not been that great of a team this year, but don’t tell Ned Yost that, as he has his team clicking at the right time and may just find himself at the helm of a deep playoff run for a third straight season.

Pitching Matchups:

Cole Hamels (13-4) vs Josh Tomlin - Thursday, August 25th

Somehow the Rangers and Indians are matching up for four games and Hamels and Yu Darvish fail to matchup with any of Cleveland’s top three. If the Rangers plan to win this series this game is pretty much a must win, as in the final three games they will face off against Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar.

Dallas Keuchel (8-12) vs Blake Snell (4-5) – Saturday, August 27th

With the way Keuchel’s starts have been going lately, expect rain on Saturday. In all seriousness though, Keuchel has put together a pretty strong second half (excluding a really bad series in Detroit) and the Astros will need him to continue to produce down the stretch as they look to force their way into the playoffs. On the other side, taking the hill for the Rays is 23 year old Blake Snell. Snell has pitched to a strong 3.06 in his first go taste of the major leagues, but his 1.54 WHIP and 4.29 xFIP point to a little bit of luck. Lets hope an Astros offense that has been heating up can cause some early career regression for Snell in this one.