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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: A Weekly AL West Roundup, Week 7

Astros open week strong, but get swept aside once again by in state rival Texas Rangers.

Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Now seven weeks into the 2016 season, the standings are starting to solidify. The Mariners again leapfrogged the Rangers, reclaiming the league lead in what is becoming a back and forth battle.

AL West Current Standings













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Taking a quick peak at the trends, the Astros unfortunate early season slide has slowed, but continues nonetheless. With another losing week the Astros are beginning to separate from the Athletics and Angels and not in a good way.

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

1. Seattle Mariners (5-1)

After falling behind the Rangers by a half game to end week six, the Mariners answered the call as any good team would. Opening the week against a strong opponent on the road, the Mariners made it look easy coasting to a 10-0 drumming of the Baltimore Orioles.  The offense came from the usual suspects with Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager and Nelso Cruz combining to collect all ten of Seattle’s RBIs. In game two, Taijuan Walker failed to carry over the momentum giving up four runs in five innings for one of his worst starts of the young season. That would prove to be Seattle’s only loss on the week, though, as the Mariners took the rubber match 7-2 with a strong overall effort.

On the second leg of the road trip, Seattle traveled to Cincinnati where they faced little resistance. The Mariners made easy work of the Reds sweeping them aside and sending them to a season long seven game losing streak. In the series, the Mariners roughed up the Cincinnati bullpen for a game one comeback. Felix Hernandez combined with the bullpen for a game two shutout. Finally, the offense behind Leonys Martin and Cano chased the Reds Alfredo Simon in the fifth to complete the sweep.

Speaking of Martin, the Mariners leadoff man saw a power surge with three homeruns on the week and looks right at home in the leadoff spot.  Martin and the Mariners will look to stay hot and build on their four game winning streak with a favorable home slate against Oakland and Minnesota.

2. Texas Rangers (3-3)

The Rangers dropped back to second place following an up and down week. After finally getting over the hump and beating Toronto to end week six, the Rangers stumbled through three games in Oakland getting swept.

Following the three game losing streak, the Rangers could not have asked for a better medication than a series with in Houston with the Astros. The Astros have struggled all year and the Rangers have had their number the entire time they have been in the AL. That wouldn’t end here either as the Rangers were able to rebound with a sweep of their own to split the week and move to 6-0 against the Astros on the year.

Heading into the upcoming week, the Rangers have a couple of major personnel stories to follow this week. First, Rougned Odor is set to have his suspension appeal heard Tuesday where the suspension will most likely be upheld. Far more importantly though, Yu Darvish is set to take the mound in Arlington this weekend for the first time since having tommy john surgery.

In terms of opponents, the Rangers will be at home for a six game slate this week starting with the Angels before the Pittsburg Pirates come to town for the weekend series.

3. Los Angeles Angels (4-3)

Heading into a four game set against their across town rivals, the Angels looked like heavy underdogs. No one told them that though, as they grabbed 3 of 4 against the Dodgers with the lone exception coming against Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw for his part was his usual dominant self going eight innings and giving up one run while striking out 11.

The Angels failed to maintain the momentum, dropping the first two against Baltimore before breaking out for ten runs to avoid the sweep Sunday afternoon. In the series finale, Jered Weaver gave a throwback performance going seven strong with two earned runs and six strikeouts. On the offensive side the Angels beat up on Ubaldo Jimenez with five runs in the third inning. Leading the charge, was the unlikely Carlos Perez who went off for a career high five RBIs on the game punctuated by a three run homerun in the seventh that effectively put the game out of reach.

The rotation has had a couple of good games recently, but the team ERA still sits at 4.20 on the year and 4.25 over the last week. The offense managed a more than respectable .272 average on the week, which is what the Angels are going to have to keep doing if they want to win consistently.

The Angels combined for six runs in the three losses, while putting up at least seven in all four wins. While this may sound obvious the Angels will need to score to win games, probably more so than other teams as they continue to try and patch together a serviceable and healthy rotation.

Having already traded for Jhoulys Chacin, the Angels went a step further this week and signed former Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum to a one year deal. While Lincecum will not approach his Cy Young performances of the past, he could provide a boost and some much needed depth to the Angels pitching staff. The Angels will have to wait though, as Lincecum will need the better part of a month to prepare to pitch in the majors.

In the upcoming week the Angels will keep it in the division with three in Arlington to kick things off followed by the Astros heading to Anaheim for the weekend.

4. Oakland A’s (3-4)

Oakland carried over the momentum from a series win in Tampa Bay all the way home to the west coast where the Rangers were waiting. Oakland was ready for the challenge, sweeping the Rangers and knocking Texas from the top spot in the division. The series could not have gone better. Sean Manaea picked up his first major league win in game one, throwing 6 2/3 innings of one run baseball. Kris Davis picked things up from there going yard three times in game two and adding another homerun in the series finale.

Last week it was Valencia with the three homerun game and this week it was Davis. The duo has now combined for 15 homeruns during the month of May. While it cannot be expected that either keep up their current pace for the whole season, the Athletics could have used a further power surge against the Yankees. Sadly, it was not to be as the Yankees came into the Coliseum and swept the four game set rather convincingly.

Glancing ahead to week eight, Oakland will hit the road and travel up the coast to face the red hot Mariners before returning home to welcome the Detroit Tigers to Oakland.

5. Houston Astros (3-4)

As week seven comes to a close, the Astros are once again left wondering what could have been. A promising start with two wins to open the week in Chicago came crashing down thanks to Chris Sale and the all too familiar sting of a rough series at the hands of the Rangers.

The first two games in Chicago built upon what had been a competitive couple of weeks from the Astros and gave fans hope of a turnaround. In game one the Astros got a decent start from Dallas Keuchel, but needed extra inning to finish off another close game. This time around the Astros were able to come out on top thanks to an 11th inning home run off the bat of Evan Gattis. Game two saw Tony Kemp and Colin Moran pick up their first MLB starts and the Astros win by a surprisingly large margin of two.

Then came Chris Sale.

Colin McHugh did his best, going seven strong innings and holding the White Sox to two runs, but Sale did one better. Sale continued what has been a masterful run moving to 9-0 on the season and tossing his third complete game.

From Chicago the Astros travelled home to take on the Rangers. Unfortunately, it seems that Sale not only beat the Astros in Chicago, but also demoralized the Houston offense to the point of incompetence. The Astros followed up the loss by putting up a combined four runs against the Rangers in getting swept. Following 2-1 losses in the first two games against the Rangers, the Astros became the first team since the 1991 Milwaukee Brewers to lose three consecutive games 2-1.  Game three was even worse, as Keuchel continued his nightmarish season on the way to a 9-2 loss.

Looking forward the Astros welcome the Baltimore Orioles to Houston before heading out to Los Angeles for the opening three games of the season series with the Angels.

Down on the Farm:

In the third installment of our AL West weekly recap, lets get down to business and start looking at the future of the division. This week I bring to you Edwin Diaz, the Mariners top pitching prospect. Drafted in the third round in 2012 from Caguas Military Academy in Puerto Rico, Diaz climbed all the way to Double-A at the end of 2015 at only 21. Diaz struggled at the level last season, but upon returning to Double-A this season Diaz has cruised to a 2.57 ERA over 35 innings.

Diaz spent most of his minor league career developing as a starter, but recently changed paths with the Mariners moving him to the pen. While Diaz had been producing solid results out of the rotation recently, the opportunity for the club to speed up his timeline to the majors must have been too tempting. With Diaz originally projected to crack the majors as early as next summer, the move to the bullpen pushes that timeline up by up to a year.

At 6’3" Diaz came into the year with a strong fastball-slider combo, but with improved early results from his changeup Diaz has solidified his standing as a future middle of the rotation starter. With the Mariners off to a great start to 2016, though, Diaz’s shift to the bullpen allows him to potentially provide a late season boost to the big league club. Look for Diaz to follow the path of numerous top pitching prospects before him and break into the majors through the bullpen before ultimately shifting back to the rotation at some point during the next couple of years.

What to Watch:

Pitching Matchups:

Taijuan Walker (2-3) vs Rich Hill (6-3) – Monday, May 23 in Seattle

In a battle of young versus old, 23 year old Taijuan Walker will face off against 36 year old Rich Hill. Hill has bounced around the league pitching for seven different organizations over his 12 year career. On the other side, Walker has spent the entirety of his short four year career with the Mariners. While the two pitchers are at opposite ends of their careers and took vastly different routes to get to where they are today, both men have experienced great early success in 2016. Hill will enter the matchup with a 2.54 ERA, while Walker sports a similarly strong 2.95 ERA. Both pitchers will look to help their team start off the week on the right foot and continue their own personal success.

Lance McCullers (0-1) vs Kevin Gausman (0-1) – Thursday, May 26 in Houston

Two former top prospects looking for their first win of 2016 will face off in this one. McCullers will look to continue rounding into form as he makes his third start of the season. After giving up five runs in his first start of the year, McCullers went six strong innings against the Rangers this past week only giving up two runs while racking up seven strikeouts. Gausman on the other hand has been a victim of poor run support all year long, failing to register a win through six starts despite pitching to the tune of a 2.70 ERA. Hopefully, McCullers can continue to round into form and the Astros can do enough to keep Gausman winless.

Yu Darvish (0-0) vs Juan Nicasio (4-3) – Saturday, May 28 in Arlington

No offense to Juan Nicasio, but this matchup is all about the return of Rangers ace Yu Darvish. Darvish threw six shutout innings Sunday in his final rehab start before returning to the big leagues. Darvish has not pitched for the Rangers since late in the 2014 season thanks to Tommy John surgery. During his rehab, Darvish looked sharp giving up only two earned runs over 20 innings split across the upper minors. While expectations should be tempered in his first couple of starts, the Rangers are more worried about what a healthy Darvish could mean for the club down the stretch and potentially well into October.


Houston at Los Angeles – Friday, May 27 – Sunday, May 29

Not a lot to get excited about this week in the division. Baltimore does travel to Houston to open the week, while Pittsburg travels to Arlington to face the Rangers later in the week. For this week though, we are going to turn our attention to a divisional series between the Angels and Astros. Surprisingly, through six weeks these two divisional rivals have yet to face each other. If the Astros or the Angels for that matter are going to have any chance of making noise in the AL West race then they are going to need a strong showing in this series.

*Pitching matchups are based on current projections from