The Rangers held steady at the top of the division for the 11th straight week and are now a couple of weeks from all but wrapping up the AL West crown.
AL West Current Standings
Looking at the trends, Seattle has finally broken away from their courtship of the .500 mark to overtake the Astros for second place in the division. Outside of that development everything else remained roughly stable with the Rangers on top and the Angels and Athletics fighting it out at the bottom, well below the .500 mark.
Now for our weekly trip around the division to catch up on the happenings for each team in the AL West:
1. Texas Rangers (3-3)
New faces, but same results as the newly bolstered Rangers roster continues to hold the rest of the AL West at bay. To kick off the week, the Rangers were one of the most aggressive teams at the deadline going out and adding both Carlos Beltran, and Jonathan Lucroy to an already productive offensive unit. Both players have provided immediate returns, as Beltran went 7-21 with a home run and three doubles on the week and Lucroy added a 6-20 week with three home runs of his own. The rest of the offense didn’t provide a whole lot of help to kick off the week, as the Rangers dropped the first two games in Baltimore. The Rangers were able to salvage game three behind a 5-3 score line to avoid the sweep. The offense continued its struggles into the series in Houston, but the pitching held their own as the Rangers took two of three to push the division lead back to seven games.
Looking forward, the Rangers could be getting more reinforcements in the coming weeks, as starting pitcher Derek Holland made his first rehab appearance this past week and Colby Lewis could be cleared to resume throwing from the mound this week. On the field, the Rangers prepare to face off with the Colorado Rockies in a four game home and away set this week before taking on the hot hitting Detroit Tigers over the weekend.
2. Seattle Mariners (5-2)
Seattle is coming off of a strong 5-2 week, but do they have enough left in the tank to make a legit push for a playoff spot?
Looking at the past week, it sure seems like they are rounding back into form as they opened by splitting a four game series against Boston before sweeping the weekend series against the Angels. The Angels series is broken down in more detail below under the Angels summary, so let’s focus on the Boston series here:
Game one: James Paxton and Eduardo Rodriguez faced off in what become a true pitchers duel. The starters exchanged zeroes through six with Rodriguez blinking first, giving up an RBI double to Dae-Ho Lee. Solo home runs from Aaron Hill and Mookie Betts ultimately gave the Red Sox the game by a final score of 2-1.
Game two: David Price rolled through seven scoreless frames, giving the Red Sox a late 4-0 lead, but the eighth inning saw the wheels fall off. The Mariners managed to plate five runs to take the lead and ultimately the game. The scoring came primarily from the longball with Mike Zunino launching a solo shot to get things started and Robinson Cano capping things off with a three run home run to give the Mariners a 5-4 lead.
Game three: Another well pitched game, this one belonged to Hisashi Iwakuma who managed 7 1/3 shutout innings behind seven strikeouts and no walks. On the otherside, Rick Porcello put together a very respectable eight innings in which he gave up three runs. Three runs were all the Mariners needed as they won 3-1.
Game four: The two starters in this one were relatively new to their respective teams, having been traded in recent weeks in the buildup to the trade deadline. For the Red Sox, Drew Pomeranz went six innings giving up two runs. For the Mariners, newly acquired Ariel Miranda matched Pomeranz with six innings and two runs allowed of his own. That was all the scoring that would be allowed until Brock Holt muscled a game winning single to center field in the top of the 11th.
Next week the Mariners open with three games against Detroit in our matchup of the week before heading to Oakland for the weekend.
3. Houston Astros (2-5)
For the second week in a row the Astros struggled with injuries and offense posting a 2-5 record. We will not dig too deeply into each game, but let’s take a quick overview how the week went. The Astros opened the week with a win over Toronto, but dropped the next three, losing the series. The weekend brought more of the same, as the Astros opened the series with Texas with a win behind a Dallas Keuchel gem before dropping the final two. The Saturday and Sunday losses push the season series to 2-11. Over the course of the seven game week the Astros only managed to plate 15 runs, needing two games of extra innings even to reach that lofty number. On the whole, the Astros scored 2 or 1 run five times over the past week.
Outside of the results, the injuries continue to mount, as Lance McCullers left the game Tuesday against Toronto with a mild elbow sprain and now finds himself on the DL. Other injuries that cropped up later in the week include a Tyler White knee issue and a Carlos Gomez illness to go with the continued absence of Luis Valbuena. The Astros suddenly find themselves with a very short bench at an inopportune time. The glass half full perspective has to be that the injuries have afforded extended looks at some of the Astros top prospects. Highlighting the sudden influx from Triple-A Fresno was Joe Musgrove who managed seven innings only allowing one run and striking out six against Texas on Sunday. Also of note, Alex Bregman collected four hits over the weekend and seems to be settling in after struggling with the bat out of the gate.
The struggling Houston team will be hitting the road in week 19 for a four game set in Minnesota followed by a three game series in Toronto over the weekend.
4. Los Angeles Angels (2-4)
Los Angeles started the week off strong taking the first two games from Oakland, but things fell apart from there as Oakland grabbed game three and then the Angeles got swept in Seattle over the weekend. Since I wrote these blurbs in reverse order this week, the Oakland series will be addressed below, while we focus on the matchup with Seattle.
Over the weekend, Los Angeles ran into a surging Seattle squad that is finally back to a full starting rotation thanks to recent returns of Felix Hernandez and Taijuan Walker. The rotation may be back, but the offense carried Seattle for most of the weekend. Game one saw almost all of the offense occur in the first inning, as Los Angeles plated three in the top of the inning behind a Mike Trout three run homer only to be doubled up by Seattle in the bottom of the inning. Capping the scoring was a Mike Zunino three run home run that put the score at 6-3. Jett Bandy added a solo shot for the Angeles in the fifth inning, but it would not be enough as Los Angeles fell 6-4. Game two saw a similar story, as Los Angeles put up three runs in the top of the first, but this time Los Angeles added to the lead, pushing it to 6-2 by the end of the fourth. From there it was all Mariners, as they scored six unanswered highlighted by a three run home run in the seventh by Sean O’Malley that gave the Mariners the 8-6 lead. Game three was the James Paxton show, as he shut down the Angels with 8 1/3 innings of one run baseball on the way to a 3-1 Seattle win and a series sweep.
In the upcoming week, things do not get any easier for the Angeles. As they look to snap their current four game losing streak they will head to Chicago for two games with the NL Central leading Cubs before hopping over to Cleveland to face the AL Central leading Indians for a four game weekend set.
5. Oakland A’s (1-5)
Another rough week, as the Athletics try to piece together a roster after shipping off talent at the August 1st traded deadline. In their first week sans Josh Reddick and Rich Hill the Athletics struggled to say the least. Kicking off the week in Los Angeles, the Athletics dropped the first two games thanks to comebacks that came up short. In game one, Oakland scored two in the eighth to pull within one, but couldn’t get over the hump falling 5-4. In game two, Oakland completed the comeback scoring one in the eighth and another in the ninth to tie the game at 6, but Albert Pujols made it all for naught with a two run walk off homerun in the bottom of the ninth. The Athletics salvaged game three behind a two run tenth inning winning the game 8-6.
Over the weekend in Chicago, Oakland failed to ever really get anything going on the offensive side of the ball, scoring three runs in the three game series. Of note, game two saw Chicago’s Jake Arrieta go eight shutout inning in beating the A’s 4-0. To add insult to injury, Oakland’s starter Sony Gray left the game in the sixth inning with arm soreness. Gray has since been placed on the DL leaving Oakland with even more holes to fill in their rotation.
Next week Oakland gets to stay home, as they welcome the Baltimore Orioles to town for four before hosting the Mariners over the weekend.
Down on the Farm:
With the trade of Reddick and Hill, the Athletics have moved on from dreams of a postseason run in 2016, but the return when coupled with the most recent draft has left Oakland with a tantalizing group of arms in the minors. Over just the last few months through a combination of the draft and trade deadline, the Athletics have added Grant Holmes, Logan Shore, Frankie Montas, A.J. Puk and Jharel Cotton to the fold. You can never have enough pitching (you know TINSTAAPP and all…), but Oakland has to like the group they have put together. With so many recent additions a number of guys made their first starts for the Oakland system, so here is a quick breakdown of where these guys got assigned and recent results:
Grant Holmes – Assigned to High-A Stockton, Holmes made his debut this past Friday. While it is just one start, Holmes cannot be pleased with his Stockton debut. Holmes pitched four innings, surrendering six run (four earned) collecting only one strikeout and walking one.
Frankie Montas – Assigned to Triple-A Nashville Sound, but has yet to make a debut. Montas has struggled with a lingering rib injury for most of 2016.
A.J. Puk – Assigned to Low-A Vermont, the number six overall selection debuted almost a month ago throwing two scoreless innings on July 12th. Since then he has appeared in four more games. Overall, Puk has pitched 12 1/3 inning, giving up nine runs (only four earned) and striking out 12.
Jharel Cotton – Assigned to Triple-A Nashville Sound, Cotton managed six inning of one run baseball in his debut performance. Cotton scattered six hits, while striking out five and walking one.
Logan Shore – Assigned to Low-A Vermont, Shore made his debut Thursday throwing two scoreless innings. The plan is to limit Shore in 2016, as he has already pitched over 100 innings during the college season.
While their debuts have been mixed, these are the names to watch going forward in the Oakland organization, as this could very well be the starting rotation of 2018 if everything falls right.
Series of the Week:
Detroit Tigers at Seattle Mariners - Monday, August 8th – Wednesday, August 10th
The Detroit Tigers are the team of the week in week 19, as they head to Seattle to kick off the week before heading down to Arlington over the weekend. With Seattle trying to make a late push into the wildcard race and the Tigers putting pressure on the Cleveland Indians behind a strong month of July this matchup pit a couple of hot teams against each other to start the week. Both teams have received recent reinforcements with the return of injured regulars Felix Hernandez for Seattle and J.D. Martinez for Detroit.
Zach Neal (1-1) vs Wade Miley (7-9) – Tuesday, August 9th
Neal is a 27 year old rookie who has pitched a total of 24 innings and picked up one start in his career, but he is not the story here. The reason to check out this matchup is on the other side, as Miley prepares to face off against his old team. Traded just before the deadline, Miley will be making his second start with Baltimore after pitching 112 innings for Seattle.
Felix Hernandez (6-4) vs Justin Verlander (12-6) – Wednesday, August 10th
Wrapping up the series of the week is one of the premier pitching matchups of the week. Verlander and Hernandez have spent the better part of a decade battling for Cy Young positioning. One of the two has finished in the top 10 for Cy Young voting in every season since 2009. Not only do both have a long history of success, both are pitching well in 2016 as well as Verlander sports a 3.52 ERA just a shade lower than Hernandez’s 3.55 mark.
Tyler Skaggs (1-0) at Corey Kluber (11-8) – Friday, August 12th
Skaggs continues to put forth a strong showing in 2016, sporting a 2.04 ERA in three starts, while Corey Kluber maintains his role as co-ace along with Danny Salazar and Carlos Carassco in Cleveland. While these two teams are headed in opposite directions, this pitching matchup should be fun as the young upstart Skaggs takes on the veteran presence in Kluber.