The division is looking like a one team show through nine weeks, as the Astros have pushed the divisional lead to 13.5 games. Looking past the division leaders things get interesting as just 3 games separate the remaining four teams, as they jockey for position and try to remain in wild card contention and slowly chip away at the Astros lead.
Just a couple of weeks ago things were starting to look interesting, as the Rangers were coming off of a 10 game winning streak and had won 11 of 12, but things have taken a dramatic turn for the worse in Arlington as they have since lost 10 of 12 to basically nullify their hot stretch. Speaking of hot stretches, as the rest of the division drifts south on our chart, the Mariners showed some serious fight in week nine to get within a couple of games of .500. Another strong week and the Mariners could be joining the Astros above the .500 line for the first time in 2017.
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 (6-0)
The Astros have been on fire lately, as they carry a 10 game winning streak and a matching 10 game road winning streak with them into the tenth week of the season. With a win Monday night in Kansas City the Astros would set the franchise mark for a road winning streak and take the mantle for longest winning streak of the season away from the Rangers.
Over the last week, the Astros just dismantled the Minnesota Twins bullpen and then kept things going as they traveled to Globe Life Park in Arlington looking to exercise the last couple of season’s one run loss demons. Over the six game stretch the offense scored at least six runs in every game on their way to a 60-24 score line on the week for a +36 run differential. Currently on six other MLB teams have a +36 or greater on the season…
I could go on and on about how impressive this team has been over the past month and into the start of June, but I will just direct you to Jason’s fifty-four game review and my graphical breakdown of May from last week.
Looking ahead, the Astros head to Kansas City looking for revenge for one of their rare series losses, playing a four game set against the Royals. After wrapping up their road trip in Kansas City, the Astros will return home to welcome the Angels to Houston for three.
2. Los Angeles Angels (3-4)
The Angels gave fans a taste of two absolute extremes on the emotional scale over the past week. First, Angel’s fans and baseball fans alike watched the story unfold in horror early in the week, as the greatest player of his generation prepared to hit the DL for the first time in his career. Mike Trout injured his thumb sliding into second base last Sunday, ultimately requiring surgery to repair the ulnar collateral ligament and dorsal capsule in his left thumb.
On the other end of the spectrum, Albert Pujols treated the Angels faithful to a show Saturday, June 3rd, when he launched a fourth inning grand slam. The grand slam ultimately put the Twins away, but more importantly it made Pujols the ninth member of the esteemed 600 club. Pujols was not alone, as six other grand slams were hit on the day to set an MLB record.
Ultimately, through the emotional roller coaster that week nine presented the Angels were able to take two of three from the Braves and salvage one of four versus the Twin for a respectable 3-4 week. As they continue to try and stay afloat without Trout, the Angels will hit the road in week 10 to face two of the hottest offenses in baseball with matching three game series in Detroit and Houston following an off day Monday.
3. Seattle Mariners (6-1)
A week ago we were writing the Mariners off as dead. And rightfully so, having managed to score more than one run in only two of their previous nine games on the way to losing seven of eight the Mariners just seemed lost at the plate. Add that to the fact that 60% of the opening day rotation was on the DL and things seemed bleak in Seattle.
Apparently a quick trip to Colorado was just what the doctor ordered. In a two game series the Mariners exploded for 16 runs at the elevated altitude. More importantly, the explosion carried back to Seattle and Safeco field where the Mariners split the second pair of games against the Rockies before sweeping Tampa Bay over the weekend. Further strengthening the Mariners charge was the return of James Paxton. Paxton pitched Wednesday and combined with the bullpen arms of Steve Cishek, James Pazos and Nick Vincent to throw a four hit shutout of the Rockies.
It isn’t all roses in the Mariner’s clubhouse though, as they still sit two games under .500 and look to have lost Jean Segura for the month of June. Segura was off to a scorching start, hitting .341 on the season for the AL batting lead and the fourth highest average in baseball. Segura suffered a sprained ankle in Thursday’s game and is projected to miss most of the next month.
Looking ahead the Mariners will attempt to break through for their first winning record of 2017 with home series against Minnesota and Toronto.
4. Texas Rangers (1-5)
While the Mariners are on the upswing and clawing their way back into the wild card race, the Rangers are doing the exact opposite. The Rangers have now lost 10 of 12 after being swept at home by the Astros over the weekend. With four straight series losses, the Rangers have undone their May hot streak and now find themselves in no man’s land when it comes to the standings.
The Rangers pitching staff that boasted the best starting rotation ERA in baseball at one point surrendered at least five runs in all six games during week nine. On the bright side, the offense put up five or more runs four times themselves, but with the pitching staff struggling to get outs it still only resulted in one win. Obviously the Rangers are not out of the playoff picture yet, but with the draft quickly approaching, the focus of most front offices will be turning to the trade deadline soon. With that shift in focus, Texas’s front office will have some tough decisions to make with some highly valued upcoming free agents in Yu Darvish and Jonathan Lucroy.
The next couple of weeks will go a long way in determining the future direction of the Texas Rangers as an organization, so looking ahead the Rangers will have a week of inter-league play in week 10. After an off day Monday, Texas will welcome the Mets to town for two games before hitting the road for a three game trip to the Nationals capital and a date with the NL leading Washington Nationals.
5. Oakland Athletics (2-5)
The Athletics faced a tough task in week nine with series in Cleveland and then against the Nationals. Oakland was able to salvage a game in each series, but after another tough week now has only managed one series win in their last seven. To make matters worse the Athletics placed veteran starters Kendall Graveman and Jesse Hahn on the DL, recalling former Astro Daniel Mengden and top prospect Jharel Cotton. In further roster shuffling, Mengden found himself sent down after just one start to make room for hot hitting outfielder Matt Olson.
One further note for the Athletics, Marcus Semien played catch for the first time since April wrist surgery Monday and is eyeing a return to the Oakland lineup at some point during the next month. Outside of that there is not a lot to say about the last place Athletics who will undoubtedly be handing the keys to the kids after the trade deadline.
In week 10, Oakland will welcome Toronto to the Coliseum for three and then hit the road for a four game series in Tampa Bay.
Series of the Week:
Washington Nationals at Los Angeles Dodgers - Monday, June 5th – Wednesday, June 7th
We leave the AL West and the American League all together for the marquee matchup of week 10, as the top two teams in the NL (talent wise, sorry Colorado) square off for a big three game series. Highlighted by Wednesday’s premier pitching matchup between Stephen Strasburg and Clayton Kershaw, this could be a preview of a huge playoff series come October, especially if the Cubs fail to bounce back and show the level of play they reached in 2016.
Jacob DeGrom (4-2, 3.97 ERA) at Dillon Gee (0-0, 0.00 ERA) – Tuesday, June 6th
Dillon Gee will move to the starting rotation for the first time this years, as he is tabbed to start Tuesday’s matchup against his old team the New York Mets. As the Rangers search for answers to their recent slump, the Mets are also looking to turn things around and hope that DeGrom can be a catalyst for their once renowned pitching staff, which has struggled to both stay on the field (Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard) and produce at an elite level (Matt Harvey and DeGrom).
Hector Santiago (4-5, 4.76 ERA) at James Paxton (4-0, 1.26 ERA) – Tuesday, June 6th
James Paxton is back and that in and of itself should be enough to get your attention. When not on the DL, Paxton has been one of the most electric starters in 2017 and his return to the mound on May 31st did nothing to dispel that, as he went 5 1/3 innings without allowing a run and racking up a 6:0 K:BB. The Mariners are coming off of a big week that has them back at the tail end of a crowded wild card pack. Paxton is going to have to be a big part of any second half push and looks like just the kind of starter that opponents won’t want to face in the wild card game, so his health bears watching as he works his way back to throwing 100+ pitches per start.
Tyson Ross (0-0, 0.00 ERA) at Gio Gonzalez (4-1, 3.03 ERA) – Saturday, June 10th
Now the exact opponent and date have not been set, but Tyson Ross is scheduled to come off the DL to make his Rangers debut sometime this weekend. Currently ESPN has him projected as the Saturday starter against Gio Gonzalez. Ross is coming off of a 5 1/3 inning outing for the Rangers AAA Round Rock affiliate, but more importantly was able to push his pitch count up to 93 without setback. Sadly, Tyson’s brother Joe Ross is scheduled to pitch for Washington in Thursday’s make-up game against Baltimore, so an all Ross family affair appears to not be in the cards for 2017.