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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: A Weekly AL West Roundup, Week 23

AL West teams keep wild card hopes alive, as Seattle storms back and Houston trudges through toughest stretch on the schedule.

Richard Carson/Getty Images

The standings held steady with the Rangers holding a nearly ten game cushion heading down the stretch. Seattle made the big move of the week, climbing back into a tie with the Astros in the division and in the wild card race.

AL West Current Standings

Team

Wins

Losses

GB

Texas

85

59

-

Houston

75

68

9.5

Seattle

75

68

9.5

Los Angeles

63

79

21

Oakland

60

82

24


Looking at the trend lines, the Rangers broke a long standing positive trend, narrowly missing their seventh straight winning week. The Mariners made a nice v-shaped reversal, posting a big week after a couple of clunkers in weeks 21 and 22. Finally, at the bottom the Angels continue to hold off Oakland to avoid the infamous distinction of finishing fifth in the division.

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

1. Texas Rangers (3-4)

The Rangers opened the week 9.5 games ahead in the division and closed the week 9.5 games ahead in the division, so not a lot has changed for our division leaders. To open the week, Texas dropped three of four in Seattle, but quickly took the first two in Los Angeles to salvage a respectable week. The Rangers magic number is now down to 10, so if things go as planned they should clinch in the next two weeks.

Looking at the numbers, Adrian Beltre has been on fire lately hitting three home runs in each of the last two weeks pushing his total over the last 28 days to 10. Further, Beltre is not just hitting for power, as he has posted a .481 average over the last week and a .344 average in his last 28 pushing his season line to .299. Beltre started off a little slow in 2016, but things seem to be clicking at the right time with him absolutely destroying baseballs down the stretch.

The upcoming week holds two AL West foes, as the Rangers travel to Houston for three before heading home to face the Athletics over the weekend.

2. Houston Astros (3-4)

In the midst of the toughest stretch of their schedule, Houston did well to hold their own and take three of seven for the week. Things could have gone better though, with the Astros taking the first two games of the week in Cleveland before dropping the final two of the four game set and losing two of three to the Chicago Cubs at home.

The roster saw some turnover during week 22, with Dallas Keuchel and Carlos Correa missing time due to shoulder fatigue and inflammation respectively. Correa made an appearance at the end of the Chicago series and hopefully is good to go moving forward. Kecuchel on the other hand is still scheduled to skip a couple more starts before we learn if he will be able to return for the final stretch of 2016. In Keuchel’s absence, David Paulino made his major league debut. Paulino looked good in the first couple of innings of his debut, but the wheel fell off in the third (partially thanks to a bad call that allowed two to score on a foul tip). Paulino is not scheduled to see a start in week 23 as Brad Peacock gets another turn in the rotation.

On the offensive side, Yulieksi Gurriel showed off the power stroke over the past week hitting his first three major league home runs. Gurriel and Alex Bregman have combined to really give the offense a lift over the last couple of weeks as the bats and bullpen try to carry an injured and struggling starting rotation toward the playoffs.

The next week doesn’t get much easier for the Astros, as they welcome the Rangers to town for three before heading out to face a hot Seattle Mariners team over the weekend.

2.  Seattle Mariners (6-1)

What a difference a week can make! Seattle was hanging by a thread after a couple of ugly weeks and headed into a four game series against the Rangers and the best record in the AL. With their backs against the wall, the Mariners answered the call, taking three of four from Texas behind a well timed offensive explosion. Following the Texas series, the Mariners headed out to Oakland where they easily swept aside the Athletics to cap off a six win week.

Of particular note, the Mariners set a franchise record with their offensive explosion against Texas. The 35 runs scored in the four game series marked the most by Seattle in a series at Safeco Field.

In week 24, Seattle will wrap up their road trip with three against the Angels before heading home for a wild card showdown with Houston.

4. Los Angeles Angels (2-4)

The results don’t hold much significance at this point for the Angels, as the focus has turned to the clubs future and hopefully contending within the next couple of seasons. While that may be the case, they still have to play the games and in the past week the Angels dropped a pair of series, losing two of three to both Oakland and the Rangers.

Straying from the results for a moment, the Angels have received some good news on the health front with Matt Shoemaker recovering well following emergency brain surgery last Sunday. Also on the injury front, starting pitcher Garrett Richards is progressing toward throwing off a mound in the next step back from a torn UCL. Garrett chose stem-cell injections instead of Tommy John, which means his recovery bears watching closely.  

Looking ahead, the Angels face a couple of wild card contenders with three against Seattle followed by four against Toronto.

5. Oakland A’s (2-4)

Similar to the Angels, the Athletics are playing for the future. This past week we found out that Billy Butler was not part of that future, as Oakland released the designated hitter/first baseman. Butler had been involved in an altercation with teammate Danny Valencia in August. Butler was hitting .276 on the season and had one year left on his contract, but had only appeared in 85 games in 2016 and struggled to hit for the power he was known for earlier in his career.

Looking at the results, Oakland opened with a series win against the Angels taking two of three. The good times did not continue against Seattle, as Oakland was swept aside in the three game weekend set.

On a positive note, Oakland starting pitcher Jharel Cotton made his debut against Los Angeles. Cotton came out victorious thanks in large part to fellow rookie Ryon Healy’s home run. For a team floundering at the bottom of the standings it is always nice to see rookies contributing and holding their own.

Taking a peak at week 24, Oakland will head to Kansas City for four games before heading down to Arlington for three with the division leading Rangers. Hopefully the Athletics will help out their AL West brethren and take a few games in Kansas City.

The Hunt for October:

A number of teams made strong moves in the wild card race over the past week, with Seattle and New York both posting 6-1 records to move up in the pecking order. New York in particular scored a huge series sweep over Toronto to put themselves squarely in the race. The sweep also moved Toronto out of the AL East lead, dropping them into a tie with Baltimore for the two AL wild cards. Boston now holds a two game edge for the ever competitive AL East.

Wild Card Standings

Team

Wins

Losses

GB

Toronto

78

64

-

Baltimore

78

64

-

Detroit

76

66

2

New York

76

66

2

Houston

75

68

3.5

Seattle

75

68

3.5

Kansas City

74

68

4


Once again, with so many teams involved in the wild card discussion, there are a number of key matchups to watch this week. One series stands above the rest though, as the Yankees head to Boston for a four game set over the weekend. Regarded by some as the greatest rivalry in sports, the Boston vs New York series will hold increased importance, as every game matters for both teams at this point. For Boston, the rivalry series is sandwiched by two series against Baltimore, while New York will enter off a series against the NL contending Dodgers. So with both teams in the midst of tough stretches in their schedules and a tight four team race in the AL East and wild card things could get tense at Fenway.

Series of the Week

Texas Rangers at Houston Astros – Monday, September 12th – Wednesday, September 14th

Barring a historic collapse, the Astros are not going to catch the Rangers for the AL West crown, but if the Astros cannot pull out a couple of wins at home against their in state rivals it is going to be a tough task to keep up in the AL wild card race. After this final meeting against Texas, things lighten up for the Astros as the rest of their schedule consists entirely of the Athletics, the Angels and the Mariners.

Pitching Matchups:

Dylan Bundy (8-5) vs David Price (15-8) – Tuesday, September 13th

Two pitchers on opposite ends of the aging curve face off in a game that holds plenty of playoff intrigue. At age 31, Price was the big off season acquisition that was supposed to give Boston the edge in the AL East and for the most part that is how things have played out. Price broke the 200 strikeout mark in his last start, as he now sits with 201 on the season having pitched to a respectable 3.87 ERA. On the other side of this matchup, Bundy comes in at 23 years of age getting his first real taste of the majors in 2016. Bundy has started 11 games and pitched to a 3.82 ERA. As each game gains importance, it will be interesting to see if some of the young pitchers hold up under the pressure as they match up with some of the games greats like Price.

Justin Verlander (14-8) vs Corey Kluber (16-9)– Friday, September 16th

Kicking off a weekend of great baseball matchups, are Verlander and Kluber squaring off in a divisional series. Both pitchers in this matchup already have a Cy Young to their name and are looking to add a second. 2016 has seen been kind to both pitchers, as Kluber has pitched to a 3.05 ERA with 208 strikeouts, while Verlander has tallied an equally impressive 3.33 ERA and 216 strikeouts. This game has all the markings of an old school pitching duel, with two veteran aces going toe to toe. Tune in to see who blinks first as it shouldn’t take much on the offensive side to win this one.