Five weeks are in the books. If you feel like the season is flying by, you are not alone. Don’t fret though, we are still just shy of the 20% mark for the season, so plenty more baseball awaits as the summer nears and the MLB prepares to take center stage in the sporting world.
Let’s jump in and take a look at where things stand. After five weeks, the Astros sit atop the AL West, a position they are quickly becoming comfortable in. Looking further down the list, the Angels remain in second, but slipped below .500 over the past week. On a more positive note, the Mariners have fought back to third in the division and are trying to hang close to the pack, while their entire pitching rotation works to get healthy. Working our way down, Oakland sits in fourth and the Rangers find themselves looking up at everyone, as they stumble back down to the bottom.
Now for the moment you have all been waiting for. Or maybe that was just me...but I mean can you blame me for wanting to show the Astros at the top in as many ways as possible?
Oh and just for fun, here is a little bonus graphic showing exactly how we got to where we are today:
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 (5-2)
Oh, what a difference a season can make. I know it is only a four game sample, but taking three of four against the Rangers has to feel good for an Astros team that has struggled, to put it lightly, against their in state rivals over the past two seasons. The Astros opened the week with three straight wins over the Arlington Rangers, but had to keep the brooms in the closet, as the Rangers jumped all over Joe Musgrove in game four.
The one man that no one in the Rangers organization wants to see again has to be Marwin Gonzalez, who did his best Bryce Harper impersonation for most of the week. Against the Rangers in particular, Marwin hit a cool .600/.615/1.900 behind four home runs punctuated by a grand slam Wednesday night to complete the Houston comeback win.
The second series against the Angels was not the prettiest showing from the bullpen, but the Astros offense came through with just enough support to take two of three. Friday night in particular saw Dallas Keuchel come to the mound in the ninth and load the bases before the bullpen came in and allowed four runs to cross and force extras. Altuve answered the call though, singling, stealing second and scoring the winning run in the top of the tenth. Saturday saw the Angels answer with a walk off 2-1 win behind an Andrelton Simmons walk off single. Sunday finally saw a little less dram as the Astros took the rubber match 5-3.
Looking forward, Houston is off Monday night and welcomes the Atlanta to town for a short two game interleague matchup before heading to New York to face the scorching hot Yankees offense.
2. Los Angeles Angels (2-4)
The Angels continue to see-saw back and forth over the .500 line, as they dropped back to a losing record behind a 2-4 week. As noted above the Angels put up quite the fight against the division leading Astros, but ultimately dropped the weekend series at home.
Earlier in the week, the Angels dropped two of three in Seattle behind a couple of bullpen collapses. Wednesday saw the Angels surrender a four run eighth inning and ultimately lose by one. Thursday on the other hand was ugly the whole way through, as the Angels allowed 11 runs, as the Angels took a two man piggyback approach. Unlike the Astros minor league piggyback system that has been used over the years, the Angels were forced to take the approach after Alex Meyer gave up six runs in the first four innings. Unfortunately for Angels fans, Daniel Wright didn’t fare much better, allowing five earned runs in four innings of his own.
The biggest news out of Anaheim this past week, though, was the absence of Mike Trout over the weekend. Trout sat out Saturday and Sunday’s games against Houston with a tight left hamstring. The Angels have a 15-27 record in games Mike Trout has missed over the past six seasons, so a little caution is warranted to prevent any lengthy absences for the MVP center fielder.
The next week will see the Angels take a quick trip to Oakland to play three and then welcome Detroit to town for a four game weekend series.
3. Seattle Mariners (4-2)
The Mariners posted the second best week in the division, taking two of three form both the Angels and Rangers on the way to a four win week. The offense has come to life over the last couple of weeks and seems to be finding a rhythm at just the right time. Nelson Cruz snapped a 15 game hitting streak Sunday with an 0-4 effort, but has been dialed in at the plate for the last couple of weeks. Kyle Seager has been hot at the plate as well, picking up at least one hit in eight of his last ten, while collecting multiple hits in four. Seager punctuated a strong week, with an eighth inning solo home run to beat the Rangers 4-3 Sunday.
While a winning week is nice and surely welcomed by Mariner’s fans, the real storyline coming out of Seattle is just how banged up their rotation suddenly looks. James Paxton who had been one of the early Cy Young front runners with a dominant month of April found his way to the disabled list this week thanks to a forearm strain. Paxton joins fellow starters Drew Smyly and Felix Hernandez who were both already on the disabled list. To make matters worse, Hisashi Iwakuma just had his next start pushed back to Thursday due to a sore knee. The Mariners rotation could be an adventure this week and with the results they have gotten from the bullpen (or not gotten) this year that could be a real problem.
As the Mariners try to weather the injury storm, they head to Philadelphia for two games before crossing the border to play four in Toronto over the weekend
4. Oakland Athletics (3-3)
Oakland had an up and down week, as they dropped two in Minnesota before salvaging game three. Their second series was the opposite, as they dropped the opening game against Detroit before fighting back to take the last two games of the week.
Of particular note, the Athletics got to Francisco Rodriguez two days in a row over the weekend to bring some excitement to the Coliseum. Saturday saw Rodriguez enter with a one run lead. After getting two quick outs, Rodriguez walked Bruce Maxwell and allowed a Matt Joyce double to set up Adam Rosales for the heroics. Rosales proceeded to take the first pitch he saw and line it into left field for the game winning two-run single. The next day Ryan Healy hit a two-run homer off of Rodriguez to cap a three run ninth and walk things off Sunday in an 8-6 Athletics win.
As the Athletics head into week six, they will welcome the Angels to town for three and head to Texas for a three game set in Arlington.
5. Texas Rangers (2-5)
The Rangers had and up and down week, but ultimately were done in as they failed to continue their “clutch” hitting against the Astros that we had become accustomed to over the last couple of seasons. As noted above, the Rangers dropped the first three games of a four game set in Houston, but avoided the sweep with a ten run explosion Thursday against Musgrove and the Astros bullpen.
The Rangers carried that momentum into Seattle, where they took the first game of the weekend, but things turned rough again, as the Rangers dropped the next two to lose the series. The bullpen was the culprit again Sunday, as Seager got to Sam Dyson for an eighth inning go ahead home run.
On the injury front, the Rangers saw Cole Hamels head to the disabled list, joining fellow starters Chi Chi Gonzalez and Tyson Ross, third baseman Adrian Beltre and reliever Jake Diekman. The Rangers will need for a couple of young guys to step up in the meantime to keep things afloat as they await some of their key players in Beltre and Hamels to get back on the field at Globe Life Park.
Next week, the Rangers have a home and away four game set with the San Diego Padres before facing off with Oakland back at Globe Life.
Series of the Week:
Houston Astros at New York Yankees – Thursday, May 11th-Sunday, May 14th
Not only is this the series of the week in the AL West, but it is honestly the series of the week in all of baseball (Washington and Baltimore fans may disagree). New York is fresh off of a sweep of the defending World Series champion Cubs at Wrigley and looking to stake claim to the top spot in all of baseball, while the Astros have been smothering the rest of the AL West in the early going and could use this big out of division matchup as a bit of an early litmus test. With it being a four game set, all the big name pitchers will take the mound with Dallas Keuchel getting things started Thursday and Masahiro Tanaka closing things out Sunday night. So how will things shake out under the bright lights in the big apple? Are the Astros ready to take center stage in the American Leauge?
Gio Gonzalez (3-0, 1.64 ERA) at Kevin Gausman (1-3, 7.55 ERA)– Monday, May 8th
The Astros have the day off and with the rest of the AL West pitching staffs taking group vacations to the disabled list already we will focus outside the division a little more in coming weeks. This one pits a couple of 20+ win teams against each other and has some key pitchers on the mound. Gonzalez has been on fire to start the season and is one of many reasons the Nationals have stormed out of the gate in the opening month. On the other end, Gausman has pitched a gauntlet of an early schedule and has the bumps to prove it, but if the Orioles are going to make noise in October he will have to find a groove and join his Dylan Bundy as young anchors of the Baltimore staff.
Dallas Keuchel (5-0, 1.88 ERA) at Michael Pineda (3-1, 3.12 ERA) – Thursday, May 11th
Houston has their rotation set up perfectly in preparation for this week’s series of the week, as Keuchel takes the mound in game one Thursday night. Through one month, Keuchel has been the ace the Astros so desperately needed coming into the season and perhaps even more importantly Kuechal has pitched like an ace against the Yankees. Over five career starts the bearded one has a 1.63 ERA and has thrown two complete games. On the other side, Pineda has looked good himself, carrying a sub one WHIP into this week’s marquee matchup.
Jake Arrieta (4-1, 4.63 ERA) vs Carlos Martinez (1-3, 3.75 ERA) – Sunday, May 14th
With the Yankees and Astros set to wrap up their big series on Sunday night baseball, you are probably looking for something to do with your Sunday afternoon. Well, first and foremost you should probably call your mother with it being Mother’s Day and all. If you have already done this, then tune in for a little NL Central rivalry matchup Sunday afternoon. Arrieta and Martinez have both had their struggles this season, at least by their standards, but both have Cy Young upside when they are on, so sit back and enjoy