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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: A Weekly AL West Roundup, Week 21

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As the wildcard standings continue to tighten, the Rangers state their claim as the top team in the AL.

Bob Levey/Getty Images

Week 21 is now behind us and the countdown continues with only five weeks remaining in the regular season. The divisional standings stay mostly unchanged, with Houston moving into a second place tie with Seattle. With an 8.5 game lead for the division, the Rangers have to be feeling pretty comfortable at this point, but with a number of games in the division left, one bad week could suddenly put a lot of pressure on Texas.

AL West Current Standings

Team

Wins

Losses

GB

Texas

77

54

-

Seattle

68

62

8.5

Houston

68

62

8.5

Oakland

57

73

19.5

Los Angeles

56

74

20.5


Taking a peak at the trend chart, the division as a whole seems to be trending upward with only the Mariners seeing a down tick over the past week. Looking at the bigger picture, the Astros have recovered after a couple of bad week in week 16 and 17 and the Rangers over the past month have reestablished what has more or less been a season long steady positive slope.

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 week in the books and another week atop the rankings for the Texas Rangers. The week started off slow with an off day followed by a loss in Cincinnati, but the Rangers bounced back in big way by taking game two from the Reds to secure the split and then proceeding to take three of four against Cleveland in a battle of AL heavy weights. With the series win over Cleveland the Rangers laid claim to the top spot in the AL and put the rest of the league on notice.

Digging a little deeper into the Cleveland series, game one went about as perfect as the Rangers could have hoped with a 9-0 win. Cole Hamels led the way with eight shutout innings and the recently signed Carlos Gomez went yard for a three run home run in his first at-bat as a Ranger. If game one was exactly what the Rangers hoped for, game two was the opposite. Corey Kluber pitched six innings only surrendering an Adrian Beltre solo shot in the sixth as the Indians rolled to a 12-1 win. Game three was right back to plan for the Rangers, as A.J. Griffin went six and combined with the bullpen for a 7-0 shutout. On the offensive side, the Rangers posted a five run first inning against Carlos Carrasco thanks to the help of an Indians error and punctuated by a Mitch Moreland two run home run. Game four finally produced the competitive atmosphere that everyone was expecting, as the Rangers held off the Cleveland for a 2-1 victory behind a strong effort from Derek Holland.

Going into the next week, the Rangers prepare to face off against their top divisional competitors, kicking off a string of ten straight and 13 of 16 against either the Mariners or Astros.

2. Seattle Mariners (2-5)

And just as it looked like the Mariners were rounding into form, they go and drop five of six to end the week behind a particularly rough series against the White Sox. The Mariners opened the week with a win over the Yankees, but proceeded to drop the next two to lose the series before dropping three of four in Chicago to end the week.

Looking into the reasoning, it appears that the Mariners offense all but disappeared following Monday’s win, as Seattle failed to score more than three runs in five of the next six. Part of the offensive struggles can be attributed to the opposing pitchers, as Seattle faced Jose Quintana, Chris Sale and Masahiro Tanaka over the past week. To make matters worse, the Mariners were without one of their offensive anchors, as Kyle Seager sat three games to rest a bruised foot. Seager returned for the final two games in Chicago and will look to get his team back on track offensively as they head to Arlington in the upcoming week.

Looking ahead Seattle will kick off the week on the road against Texas before welcoming the Angels to Seattle for the weekend. Further, the suddenly struggling Mariners offense will not get a reprieve until at least Wednesday, as they are slated to face Yu Darvish and Cole Hamels in the first two games of their series at Texas.

2. Houston Astros (4-2)

The Astros used a strong week to move a little closer to an AL wild card spot, winning series in Pittsburg and against Tampa Bay.

Following a series win in Baltimore, the Astros continued a tough road trip with three in Pittsburg. To open the series the Astros continued their winning ways grabbing a 3-1 win. The win was Doug Fister’s ninth road win, which moved him into a tied for most road wins with Jake Arrieta, Cole Hamels and Max Scherzer. Impressive company for someone who came into the season as a flier hoping to stick as a backend starter. Game two against the Pirates saw Joe Musgrove get roughed up for a four run first inning on the way to a 7-1 loss. Game three saw the Astros win 5-4, carried by an Evan Gattis home run and Carlos Correa two hit night. The win gave the Astros an impressive 5-2 road trip with big wins over playoff contending teams.

As the Astros returned home to Houston, Correa and Gattis stayed hot to the tune of back home runs in the bottom of the ninth for the walk off win in game one. The Astros were tied heading into the ninth, but Ken Giles surrendered a home run to Mikie Mahtook setting things up for the ninth inning heroics. Houston went on to take game two 6-2 behind a strong day on the mound from Dallas Keuchel. Game three did not go as planned, with the Astros struggling to figure out Rays starter Chris Archer. Archer racked up ten strikeouts on the way to a 10-4 Tampa Bay win.

The upcoming week starts with a must win series against Oakland before the Astros hit the road to face the AL leading Texas Rangers. Down the stretch every series is more or less a must win for the Astros, but series against AL bottom dwellers like Oakland have to go Houston’s way if they plan on claiming one of the AL wild card spots.

4. Oakland A’s (4-2)

As they let the kids play, Oakland made life difficult for a couple of playoff contenders last week taking two of three from Cleveland and St. Louis.

In the Cleveland series, Oakland pitching looked downright dominant giving up a single run in each of the three games. Their only loss in the series came in game one, as Carlos Carrasco outpitched rookie Andrew Triggs to give the Indians a 1-0 win. Triggs did mange six innings of shutout baseball though, and would rebound for his first big league win later in the week.

Looking at the Cardinals series the Athletics dropped the first one before winning the final two to take the series. As stated above Triggs grabbed his first major league win with the 7-4 Oakland win on Sunday. Triggs was not the only rookie to register his first win in the series, as St. Louis starter Luke Weaver pitched seven innings of one run baseball on the way to his first win in Friday’s game.  

The Athletics will look to continue to play spoiler this week, as they head to Houston for a three game set before taking on Boston over the weekend.

5. Los Angeles Angels (4-2)

Having snapped a franchise long 11 game losing streak last week, the Angels rode the momentum to a pair of series wins. Much like Oakland both series came against playoff contenders in Toronto and Detroit.

Easily the best week the Angels have had in a while, Los Angeles managed to hold potent offenses to three or fewer runs four times and gave up more than five only once.

Albert Pujols’ assault on the history books continues, as he collected his 100th RBI of the season for the 13th time in his career. With 13 seasons of 100 RBIs, Pujols joined Jimmie Foxx, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in a tie for second most 100 RBI seasons. Alex Rodriguez holds the record with 14 such seasons.

In other fun Pujols related news, Albert recorded four hits on Wednesday for his 42nd four hit game since 2001. Only Miguel Cabrera (42) and Ichiro Suzuki (53) have had more.

Next week the Angels will face the surging Cincinnati Reds before traveling to Seattle for the weekend.

The Hunt for October:

Checking in on the ever crowded AL wild card race, we can see that things tightened up even more over the past week thanks to a losing week from Boston at the top. With only 4.5 games separating the Yankees (fifth team out) and the Boston for the top wildcard spot, things are going to get interesting down the stretch.

Wild Card Standings

Team

Wins

Losses

GB

Boston

72

58

+1

Baltimore

71

59

-

Detroit

69

61

2

Houston

68

62

3

Kansas City

68

62

3

Seattle

68

62

3

New York

67

62

3.5


To add to the drama of the crowded wild card race, Cleveland stumbled over the past week and now only holds a 4.5 game lead over Detroit and 5.5 game lead over the surging Royals. The AL east also continues to sit with three teams in the hunt. Currently, Toronto holds a two game edge over the wild card leading Red Sox. For anyone scoreboard watching, a number of matchups this week pit playoff contenders against each other with Baltimore hosting Toronto to start the week and the Yankees over the weekend, while Kansas City opens the week by welcoming New York to town before hosting the Tigers for the weekend.

Series of the Week

Seattle Mariners at Texas Rangers- Monday, August 29nd – Wednesday, August 31st

Houston Astros at Texas Rangers – Friday, September 2nd – Sunday, September 4th

Doubling down this week, you may just want to tune in for all of the Rangers games, as the division could very well be put away the division with a strong week in front of the home crowd. With Seattle and Houston sitting a healthy 8.5 games back, nothing is wrapped up quite yet, but a 5-1 or 6-0 week could see the Rangers sitting on a 10+ game lead with only a month to play. On the flip side, if the Mariners and Astros can both win series in Arlington, then suddenly the AL west could join the east and central as true three team races down the stretch.

Pitching Matchups:

Michael Fulmer (10-5) vs Danny Duffy (11-2) – Friday, September 2rd

Going outside the division to highlight a battle of young hurlers who are looking to help lead their respective teams into the postseason. In the race for a wild card (or potentially the central division crown) Fulmer and Duffy will be relied on heavily to continue putting up strong results. To this point, Fulmer has posted an impressive 2.69 ERA that will have him at or near the top of most rookie of the year ballots. On the other side, Duffy has posted a 3.01 ERA, getting back to his 2014 numbers after a mildly disappointing 2015 campaign. Both pitchers are at or near their previous inning maxes, so how they produce down the stretch could very well decide the fate of a number of teams with how close the playoff races are getting.  

Joe Musgrove (1-2) at Yu Darvish (4-3) – Sunday, September 4th

The entire Rangers week was already highlighted above in our "series" of the week, but this pitching matchup bears particular interest, as the young Musgrove faces off against the experienced Darvish. Musgrove has been roughed up recently and will be facing a hostile crowd, as the Rangers and Astros wrap up their weekend series. How he gets going in the opening couple of innings could very well decide how the game goes.