With two weeks in the books, guys are starting to settle into the rhythm of another long MLB regular season. The standings and stats on the other hand will continue to gyrate for most of the next month as small sample sizes continue to play with our emotions before settling in for summer. So far, the ride has been quite enjoyable for Houston fans, especially as the offense found its swagger over the last couple of series. On the flip side, the Rangers find themselves alone at the bottom of the standings thanks to a series of late game implosions.
As we established last week the trend chart will return after week five (even though it was tempting to post just to show the Astros alone above the .500 line).
Now it is time for our weekly trip around the division to catch up on the happenings for each team in the AL West:
1. Houston Astros (8-4)
The Astros opened thing up on a sour note in to begin week two, getting shutout in Seattle as they were unable to solve the riddle of James Paxton. This is already the second time that Paxton has stifled the Astros lineup in the early going.
With Paxton out of the way, though, the offense exploded. Having laid dormant for the first week of the season and floundering near the bottom of most offensive statistics the Astros set out to make up for lost time. Altuve lead the charge, at one point reaching base in 11 straight plate appearances. Behind their newfound comfort with the bats, the Astros reeled off 7, 10, 7 and 10 runs respectively to finish the week on a four game winning streak. Even more impressive, the Astros were able to come back from five runs down twice in their four game winning streak.
Sunday’s game saw the A’s pulling out all the stops to slow down the Astros offense and by that I simply mean they got an assist from mother nature. The Astros and Athletics series finale was rained out and will be made up in September as a part of a double header.
On the slate for week three is a four game home set with the Angels and a quick weekend trip to Tampa Bay for three.
2. Los Angeles Angels (6-7)
After getting off to a hot start to 2017, the Angels did not see a lot go right in week two. Following an off day Monday, the Angels did get things kicked off with a bang, knocking the Rangers off in 6-5 in ten innings. From there things got ugly quick, as the Angels dropped their final five games of the week to slide below .500.
The offense was all but nonexistent in the five game losing streak as the Angels combined to score nine runs total. Highlighting the offensive ineptitude was Sunday’s 1-0 shutout in Kansas City. One of the main culprits behind the low offensive output is Albert Pujols, who is only hitting for a .200 average with one homer in the early going. With Pujols not posing much of an early threat teams are free to pitch around Mike Trout taking a lot of the thump out of a top heavy Angels offense.
Heading into week three the Angels will have a full slate as they look to right the ship and get back to playing winning baseball. Unfortunately for them they head to Houston, who is on a four game winning streak to begin the week. After four games at Minute Maid Park, the Angels will then head north to Toronto for a four game weekend set that bleeds into week four.
3. Oakland Athletics (5-7)
The Athletics had a bit of an up and down week, opening things up with two impressive wins in Kansas City before heading home to host Houston where they dropped two before the rain gave them a reprieve from the Astros offense.
Of note Jharel Cotton looked outstanding in the opening game of the Kansas City series pitching seven shutout innings. Cotton allowed only two hits and struck out six, while Kris Davis provided all the offense Oakland would need on a two run home run in the top of the fourth inning.
Sean Manaea also had an impressive albeit wild performance in the Athletics loss on Sunday. Manaea managed to leave the game with a no-hitter, but was still tagged for two runs (one earned) thanks to five walks and a couple of errors. For a complete rundown of Sunday’s crazy game check out the game recap here.
Looking forward to week three the Athletics will get to stay home, as the Rangers visit the Coliseum for three and the Mariners stop in for four.
4. Seattle Mariners (5-8)
It is safe to say that the Mariners are happy to be done with the Astros until late June. Outside of Paxton’s strong effort to shutout the Astros, Seattle continued to struggle against their divisional foes. Houston is now 5-2 against the Mariners in the early going. Of particular note, Wednesday’s game was painful for Mariner fans, as the Mariners jumped out to an early 5-0 lead before giving up 10 unanswered to lose 10-5. Dan Altavilla and Dillon Overton carried the brunt of the loss, giving up three runs a piece in relief.
The script flipped in the second half of the week with Seattle hosting that other Texas team for a weekend set. Seattle would go on to sweep the Rangers behind an Easter Sunday walk off capped off by a Nelson Cruz single. With the sweep the Mariners were still able to finish with a 4-3 record on the week and have something to build on heading into week three.
The schedule is set up for them to do just that, as the Mariners will host the Marlins for a three game set and then head south to face Oakland for a four game weekend series.
5. Texas Rangers (4-8)
After opening the season with a heartbreaking three game sweep at the hands of the Cleveland Indians, it looked like the Rangers were getting on track with series wins over the Athletics to end week one and the Angels to open week two. Things turned ugly again, though, in Seattle. The Rangers offense let them down in the first two games as Felix Hernandez and Paxton combined to allow only one run.
Sunday was a different story, as Texas pushed seven across the plate and were in a position to win the game late. Unfortunately, the Rangers handed the ball to Sam Dyson in the ninth and things went south quickly. With the loss on Sunday, Dyson now sits on an 0-3 record, but more impressively has now allowed 13 earned runs in 4.1 innings and owns a 27.00 ERA. With two home runs allowed and five walks to only two strikeouts it isn’t like he is just getting unlucky either. The Rangers will need to figure out the back end of the bullpen if they plan on turning things around in the coming weeks.
As they try to snap out of their early season funk, the Rangers will head to Oakland for three and host Kansas City for four in week three.
Down on the Farm:
This week we will turn our attention to that team that plays in Arlington and take a look at a young rookie who isn’t getting much of the spotlight. While technically Drew Robinson is not “down on the farm” after making the opening day roster, he is a relative unknown to most of us. The bulk of that can be attributed to fellow corner infielder Joey Gallo. Due to his prodigious power potential, Gallo hogged the headlines becoming a household name in prospect circles. So, let’s correct that and get to know a little more about Robinson.
Robinson is not an all-star in the making, but he has shown some positional flexibility in the minors and a glimpse of an intriguing power-speed combination. Over the past two seasons in the minors, Robinson has collected more than 20 games played at 1B, 2B, 3B, CF and RF. With Gallo up with the big league club it looks likely that Robinson will shift over to a steadier role at 3B, but versatility is huge when trying to get a spot on the bench at the major league level.
On the offensive side of things, Robinson will struggle to hit for a .250 average, which makes it hard to envision a full time role at the major league level, but he did launch 20 home runs and steal 17 bases at AAA in 2016. Look for Robinson to serve as a bench bat for the Rangers at times in 2017 or provide some trade filler at the deadline, as another team looks to give him a more extended look.
Houston Astros vs Los Angles Angels - Monday, April 17th – Thursday, April 20th
I was tempted to go with the Rangers series against the Royals, but with the Angels and Astros matching up for the first time in 2017, we will turn our attention that way. The Angels and Astros sit in the top two spots in the AL West after week two, but a four game set has the potential to really put some distance between the two or give us a third week in a row with a change at the top of the standings.
Edison Volquez (0-1, 3.45 ERA) at Felix Hernandez (1-1, 2.95 ERA) – Wednesday, April 19th
There are not a lot of marquee matchups within the division this week, but Hernandez bears watching in the early going, as he absolutely must be on his game this year if the Mariners expect to be in the playoff race come September.
James Paxton (2-0, 0.00 ERA) vs Kendall Graveman (2-0, 2.00 ERA) – Thursday, April 20th
Thursday’s game between the Mariners and Athletics pits a couple of younger pitchers against each other. Both Paxton and Graveman have had early season success and will be looking to build on their early success and find a rhythm in the first half of the season.
Carlos Carrasco (1-1, 2.33 ERA) vs Jose Quintana (0-3, 6.75) – Friday, April 21st
For our final matchup of the week, I leave you with an AL Central showdown. Carrasco and Quintana have been two of the more consistent pitchers over the last couple of seasons (other than when Carrasco inevitably gets hurt). On a more relevant front though, Quintana figures to be one of the bigger names on the trade market at midseason and has been linked to Houston repeatedly. With that said, Quintana is not helping his trade value in the early going, as he has yet to make it seven innings in a start this season and has an eye sore of a K:BB ratio at 14:9. This matchup bears watching, as the price of Quintana will take a hit if he can’t get back on track soon.