The Houston Astros extended their lead in the AL West to four games from 2½ since the Oakland Athletics last had an off day on April 27, though they led by seven on May 4. We're getting to the point now where even if the Astros begin to play like the 83-loss team FanGraphs projected them to, they'll still win 83 or 84 games, and it will take just a little bit of good luck to play like a .500 team instead and finish on 86 games, which might be enough to win the division now.
|Standings through May 13|
|Steamer/ZiPS projection from Fangraphs. PECOTA from Baseball Prospectus.|
33-36 games won't change the rest of season projections very much. For example, the Astros rest of season projection is still pretty much the same on Fangraphs, at .487 (from .486 at the start of the year). The Astros have simply been playing so far above expectations for the first 34 games that they have a chance of winning the West in spite of their poor projection for the rest of the year.
It's the same for the A's, though they are now projected to play like an 82-win team would over the final 126 rather than as an 83-win team at the start of the year, partly due to losing Ben Zobrist's production for an extended period. The only problem is they've already compiled the record of a 58-win team over the first 36 games, so the projection drops accordingly.
Let's dive in to the team-by-team roundup.
1. Houston Astros (21-13, 10-6 since 4/27)
After the Astros completed their first ever sweep of the Athletics, they won seven more, sweeping the Padres and Mariners to take a seven-game lead in the AL West by May 3. The last time the Astros ever led their division by at least seven games was when they won the 1998 National League Central title by 13 games. May 3 is the earliest the Astros have ever held a seven-game division lead in the 54-year history of the Houston franchise.
The Astros then went 3-6 by getting swept by the Rangers, splitting a four-game set against the Angels, and splitting a two-game set against the Giants.
In that time, the Astros demoted Asher Wojciechowski from the rotation after only making it through four innings in all three of his starts. Long reliever Sam Deduno took his place for two starts, throwing 61 pitches on May 1, but conceding 10 earned runs in 4⅔ innings on May 6 against the Texas Rangers. He was returned to the bullpen in anticipation of Brett Oberholtzer's activation for a May 13 start.
Oberholtzer, however, exited that start with a recurrence of the blister on his throwing hand's index finger, and he has been returned to the disabled list. Specifically, Oberholtzer says "the blister didn't re-occur, just the top layer of the skin came off a little bit," according to the Houston Chronicle's Evan Drelich.
Houston's offense took a hit during this stretch as well, with Jed Lowrie going on the disabled list to undergo thumb surgery after an awkward slide into home plate and George Springer going on the concussion disabled list after running into the outfield wall at Minute Maid Park making an excellent catch in the May 5 game against the Texas Rangers:
Springer returned to Houston on May 13, taking Robbie Grossman's spot on the roster.
The Astros earned some awards since our last update. Jose Altuve shared American League co-player of the week honors with Josh Reddick and Dallas Keuchel was named April's AL pitcher of the month after making five quality starts totaling a 0.73 ERA, and getting credited with the win in three of them. One of his no decisions was the nine-inning performance against the Athletics where the Astros were held scoreless until extra innings and gave up the lead the Astros took in the 10th.
|Astros results since April 27|
|Date||Opponent||Result||Astros rec.||Div. GB||Streak||Astros starter||Opp. starter|
|27-Apr||at Padres||W 9-4||12-7||+3.0||W4||Collin McHugh||James Shields|
|28-Apr||at Padres||W 14-3||13-7||+4.0||W5||Roberto Hernandez||Tyson Ross|
|29-Apr||at Padres||W 7-2||14-7||+4.0||W6||Dallas Keuchel||Andrew Cashner|
|30-Apr||vs. Mariners||W 3-2 (10)||15-7||+4.0||W7||Scott Feldman||James Paxton|
|1-May||vs. Mariners||W 4-3||16-7||+5.0||W8||Samuel Deduno||Roenis Elias|
|2-May||vs. Mariners||W 11-4||17-7||+6.0||W9||Collin McHugh||Taijuan Walker|
|3-May||vs. Mariners||W 7-6||18-7||+7.0||W10||Roberto Hernandez||J.A. Happ|
|4-May||vs. Rangers||L 1-2||18-8||+7.0||L1||Dallas Keuchel||Ross Detwiler|
|5-May||vs. Rangers||L 1-7||18-9||+6.0||L2||Scott Feldman||Wandy Rodriguez|
|6-May||vs. Rangers||L 3-11||18-10||+5.0||L3||Samuel Deduno||Colby Lewis|
|7-May||at Angels||W 3-2||19-10||+6.0||W1||Collin McHugh||Hector Santiago|
|8-May||at Angels||L 0-2||19-11||+5.0||L1||Roberto Hernandez||Jered Weaver|
|9-May||at Angels||W 6-5||20-11||+6.0||W1||Dallas Keuchel||Matt Shoemaker|
|10-May||at Angels||L 1-3||20-12||+5.0||L1||Scott Feldman||Garrett Richards|
|11-May||OFF DAY||+5.0||OFF DAY|
|12-May||vs. Giants||L 1-8||20-13||+4.0||L2||Collin McHugh||Chris Heston|
|13-May||vs. Giants||W 4-3||21-13||+4.0||W1||Brett Oberholtzer||Tim Hudson|
2. Los Angeles Angels (17-17, 8-7 since 4/27)
The Angels made a habit of playing close games over their last 15 with just two decided by more than three runs. In the 13 games decided by three runs or fewer, the Halos went 8-5. In one-run games, they were 4-5.
They avoided the injury bug down in Anaheim over the last couple weeks and made just a few roster maneuvers. The deal that sent Josh Hamilton to the Texas Rangers was officially completed. Anaheim sent down Green Green to call up Efren Navarro. They called up catcher Carlos Perez to make his major league debut and traded Drew Butera to the Royals for shortstop Ryan Jackson. Perez made his debut on May 5 and he was a big hit:
And there's this from Angels media relations staff member Matt Birch:
Last #Angels player with walk-off HR in MLB debut was Billy Parker on September 9, 1971 vs. Milwaukee.— Matt Birch (@MBirchAngels) May 6, 2015
Perez also becomes first catcher in #Angels history with a multi-hit game in MLB debut.— Matt Birch (@MBirchAngels) May 6, 2015
The Angels wrapped up this period on May 13 when Huston Street came to terms on a two-year, $18 million extension that includes a $1 million buyout for his third year or else a $10 million club option.
The big question about the Angels is whether they can start scoring. They are last in the American League in wRC+, and their three leading hitters are Mike Trout, Kole Calhoun, and Johnny Giavotella. Albert Pujols has an abnormally low .228 BABIP, and that stems from his career low 25.5% hard hit contact.
|Angels results since April 27|
|Date||Opponent||Result||Angels rec.||Div. GB||Streak||Angels starter||Opp. Starter|
|27-Apr||OFF DAY||3.0||OFF DAY|
|28-Apr||at A's||L 2-6||9-11||4.0||L2||Jered Weaver||Sonny Gray|
|29-Apr||at A's||W 6-3||10-11||4.0||W1||Matt Shoemaker||Jesse Hahn|
|30-Apr||at A's||W 6-5||11-11||4.0||W2||Garrett Richards||Jesse Chavez|
|1-May||at Giants||L 2-3||11-12||5.0||L1||C.J. Wilson||Chris Heston|
|2-May||at Giants||L 4-5||11-13||6.0||L2||Hector Santiago||Tim Hudson|
|3-May||at Giants||L 0-5||11-14||7.0||L3||Jered Weaver||Tim Lincecum|
|4-May||vs. Mariners||L 2-3||11-15||7.0||L4||Matt Shoemaker||Felix Hernandez|
|5-May||vs. Mariners||W 5-4||12-15||6.0||W1||Garrett Richards||James Paxton|
|6-May||vs. Mariners||W 4-3||13-15||5.0||W2||C.J. Wilson||Roenis Elias|
|7-May||vs. Astros||L 2-3||13-16||6.0||L1||Hector Santiago||Collin McHugh|
|8-May||vs. Astros||W 2-0||14-16||5.0||W1||Jered Weaver||Roberto Hernandez|
|9-May||vs. Astros||L 5-6||14-17||6.0||L1||Matt Shoemaker||Dallas Keuchel|
|10-May||vs. Astros||W 3-1||15-17||5.0||W1||Garrett Richards||Scott Feldman|
|11-May||OFF DAY||5.0||OFF DAY|
|12-May||vs. Rockies||W 5-2||16-17||4.0||W2||C.J. Wilson||Kyle Kendrick|
|13-May||vs. Rockies||W 2-1 (11)||17-17||4.0||W3||Hector Santiago||Jordan Lyles|
3. Seattle Mariners (15-18, 8-7 since 4/27)
Like the Angels, the Mariners also played a lot of close games over their last 15, going 6-6 in games decided by two runs or fewer. They were 4-5 in one-run games over that span. They've done well to avoid conceding runs in this stretch, holding opponents to four runs or fewer in 12 of the last 15 games.
Some of that can be pinned on a bullpen that is just now getting its stronger contributors back. Two losses each were assigned to Dominic Leone and Carson Smith, and Danny Farquhar has struggled. He has allowed 20 hits and two home runs over 17 innings, and has a 5.29 ERA. Returning from the disabled list is Tom Wilhelmsen, and the Mariners called up Joe Beimel and Mark Lowe to replace Yoervis Medina and Tyler Olson.
The starting rotation will have to continue without Hisashi Iwakuma, who was shut down after suffering a setback in his return from a lat strain.
With Iwakuma, this shutdown likely means at least six weeks before he's game ready. That's with no further setbacks with strained lat.— Bob Dutton (@TNT_Mariners) May 12, 2015
The Mariners are still struggling a little bit on offense, scoring three or fewer in seven of their last 15 games, but they have improved. In April their 92 wRC+ ranked 10th in the American League, but their May 121 wRC+ is third.
They won't be getting help from Carlos Quentin, who decided to retire from baseball rather than play out a minor league deal with the Seattle Mariners. When the A's visited Seattle just a week ago, only Seth Smith and Nelson Cruz had a better than 100 wRC+ for the year, now Logan Morrison and Brad Miller have joined them.
|Mariners results since April 27|
|Date||Opponent||Result||Mariners rec.||Div. GB||Streak||Mariners starter||Opp. starter|
|27-Apr||at Rangers||W 3-1||8-11||4.0||W1||Taijuan Walker||Yovani Gallardo|
|28-Apr||at Rangers||W 2-1||9-11||4.0||W2||J.A. Happ||Ross Detwiler|
|29-Apr||at Rangers||W 5-3||10-11||4.0||W3||Felix Hernandez||Wandy Rodriguez|
|30-Apr||at Astros||L 2-3 (10)||10-12||5.0||L1||James Paxton||Scott Feldman|
|1-May||at Astros||L 3-4||10-13||6.0||L2||Roenis Elias||Samuel Deduno|
|2-May||at Astros||L 4-11||10-14||7.0||L3||Taijuan Walker||Collin McHugh|
|3-May||at Astros||L 6-7||10-15||8.0||L4||J.A. Happ||Roberto Hernandez|
|4-May||at Angels||W 3-2||11-15||7.0||W1||Felix Hernandez||Matt Shoemaker|
|5-May||at Angels||L 4-5||11-16||7.0||L1||James Paxton||Garrett Richards|
|6-May||at Angels||L 3-4||11-17||7.0||L2||Roenis Elias||C.J. Wilson|
|7-May||OFF DAY||7.5||OFF DAY|
|8-May||vs. A's||W 4-3 (11)||12-17||6.5||W1||Taijuan Walker||Sonny Gray|
|9-May||vs. A's||W 7-2||13-17||6.5||W2||J.A. Happ||Jesse Hahn|
|10-May||vs. A's||W 4-3||14-17||5.5||W3||Felix Hernandez||Jesse Chavez|
|11-May||OFF DAY||5.5||OFF DAY|
|12-May||vs. Padres||W 11-4||15-17||4.5||W4||James Paxton||Ian Kennedy|
|13-May||vs. Padres||L 2-4||15-18||5.5||L1||Taijuan Walker||James Shields|
4. Texas Rangers (15-19, 8-8 since 4/27)
Josh Hamilton is playing professional baseball games now, first with the Triple-A Round Rock Express, where he went 2-for-9 with three strikeouts and no walks, and will now be starting an assignment with the Double-A Frisco RoughRiders. Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News writes that Hamilton will be evaluated after Wednesday's game, and could be activated late next week.
On the field, the Texas Rangers were swept by the Mariners to close out the month of April, and dropped a three-game set to the A's to start the month of May. Things turned brighter when they swept the division leading Astros, split a four-game set with the Rays, and split a four-game set with the Royals (Thursday's loss to the Royals makes them 15-20).
Mitch Moreland went on the disabled list April 29 and returned on May 13 after surgery to remove bone chips from his left elbow. In that two week period, Kyle Blanks played his way onto the active roster and Jake Smolinski played his way off of it. Blanks has a .314/.364/.549 line in 55 plate appearances, good for a 150 wRC+, and has hit three home runs. Smolinski was .140/.290/.220 in 62 plate appearances, a 49 wRC+, by the time he was demoted.
The Rangers also sent down Rougned Odor to give Tommy Field a try at second base. Odor was the team's worst hitter, batting .144/.252/.233 in 103 plate appearances, good for a 37 wRC+. So far, Field is 3-for-11 with a walk, two strikeouts, and a solo home run.
The Rangers also made a few changes to their bullpen. They optioned Tanner Scheppers, Roman Mendez, and Spencer Patton; and designated Stolmy Pimentel for assignment. Taking their places were Alex Claudio, Patton (for Mendez), Sam Freeman, and Kyuji Fujikawa.
|Rangers results since April 27|
|Date||Opponent||Result||Rangers rec.||Div. GB||Streak||Rangers starter||Opp. starter|
|27-Apr||vs. Mariners||L 1-3||7-12||5.0||L1||Yovani Gallardo||Taijuan Walker|
|28-Apr||vs. Mariners||L 1-2||7-13||6.0||L2||Ross Detwiler||J.A. Happ|
|29-Apr||vs. Mariners||L 2-5||7-14||7.0||L3||Wandy Rodriguez||Felix Hernandez|
|30-Apr||OFF DAY||7.5||OFF DAY|
|1-May||vs. A's||L 5-7||7-15||8.5||L4||Colby Lewis||Scott Kazmir|
|2-May||vs. A's||W 8-7 (10)||8-15||8.5||W1||Nick Martinez||Drew Pomeranz|
|3-May||vs. A's||L 1-7||8-16||9.5||L1||Yovani Gallardo||Sonny Gray|
|4-May||at Astros||W 2-1||9-16||8.5||W1||Ross Detwiler||Dallas Keuchel|
|5-May||at Astros||W 7-1||10-16||7.5||W2||Wandy Rodriguez||Scott Feldman|
|6-May||at Astros||W 11-3||11-16||6.5||W3||Colby Lewis||Samuel Deduno|
|7-May||at Rays||W 5-4||12-16||6.5||W4||Nick Martinez||Chris Archer|
|8-May||at Rays||L 2-8||12-17||6.5||L1||Yovani Gallardo||Nathan Karns|
|9-May||at Rays||L 2-7||12-18||7.5||L2||Ross Detwiler||Matt Andriese|
|10-May||at Rays||W 2-1||13-18||6.5||W1||Wandy Rodriguez||Jake Odorizzi|
|11-May||vs. Royals||W 8-2||14-18||6.0||W2||Colby Lewis||Danny Duffy|
|12-May||vs. Royals||L 6-7 (10)||14-19||6.0||L1||Nick Martinez||Edinson Volquez|
|13-May||vs. Royals||W 5-2||15-19||6.0||W1||Yovani Gallardo||Yordano Ventura|
5. Oakland A's (13-23, 5-11 since 4/27)
The A's still have not won consecutive games since April 13-14 in Houston, and since then have earned losing streaks of two, one, one, four, two, one, one, six, and one games. The A's are 8-19 since April 15, and in their recent run of 16 games, they've lost seven one run games while winning one. Generally speaking, the starting pitching is there. The A's have the most starters innings in the American League and are eighth in reliever innings despite playing the most games in the AL.
The hitting is fine, with Oakland's 103 wRC+ good for seventh in the American League, and despite their 0-for-14 performance with runners in scoring position against the Red Sox on Wednesday, they are still fourth in batting average with runners in scoring position (.288).
Coco Crisp made his return and started off 0-for-26 before getting aboard on an infield single. The slump goes back to 2014, when he was 0-for-39, writes Lev Facher for the San Francisco Chronicle.
Oh yeah, Lev is writing for the Chronicle. He's started a summer internship, though he's not covering the A's exclusively. Read about his ride in one of the support cars during the third stage of the Tour of California. He also was on the Hunter Pence rehab beat in Sacramento. You should follow him on twitter (@levfacher).
The last 16 games have otherwise been a period of great panic for the bullpen as the team tries to figure out what's going on what its bullpen. The A's have used 15 different relievers already, and here are the fates of the ones no longer in the bullpen:
- Chris Bassitt was returned to Triple-A to let him be a starting pitcher again.
- R.J. Alvarez was optioned to Triple-A.
- Eric O'Flaherty is on the disabled list.
- Jesse Chavez is in the starting rotation.
- Ryan Cook was up from Triple-A and promptly returned after four appearances.
- Chad Smith was designated for assignment and traded to the Angels for cash after two appearances.
- Ike Davis is Oakland's starting first baseman, and technically is available in relief.
- Arnold Leon is in the Triple-A starting rotation.
A funny thing has happened in the last seven days though, the bullpen has settled down some. Sure the bullpen's 3.05 ERA over the last week is still fifth worst in the American League, and it still has two losses, but that is miles better than the club's overall league-worst 4.98 ERA.
So maybe the A's will go on a run where they score one more run than the opponent a bunch of times in a row. That sure would be swell.
|A's results since April 27|
|Date||Opponent||Result||A's rec.||Div. GB||Streak||A's starter||Opp. Starter|
|27-Apr||OFF DAY||4.5||OFF DAY|
|28-Apr||vs. Angels||W 6-2||9-12||4.5||W1||Sonny Gray||Jered Weaver|
|29-Apr||vs. Angels||L 3-6||9-13||5.5||L1||Jesse Hahn||Matt Shoemaker|
|30-Apr||vs. Angels||L 5-6||9-14||6.5||L2||Jesse Chavez||Garrett Richards|
|1-May||at Rangers||W 7-5||10-14||6.5||W1||Scott Kazmir||Colby Lewis|
|2-May||at Rangers||L 7-8 (10)||10-15||7.5||L1||Drew Pomeranz||Nick Martinez|
|3-May||at Rangers||W 7-1||11-15||7.5||W1||Sonny Gray||Yovani Gallardo|
|4-May||at Twins||L 7-8||11-16||7.5||L1||Jesse Hahn||Phil Hughes|
|5-May||at Twins||W 2-1||12-16||6.5||W1||Jesse Chavez||Trevor May|
|6-May||at Twins||L 0-13||12-17||6.5||L1||Scott Kazmir||Kyle Gibson|
|7-May||at Twins||L 5-6||12-18||7.5||L2||Drew Pomeranz||Ricky Nolasco|
|8-May||at Mariners||L 3-4 (11)||12-19||7.5||L3||Sonny Gray||Taijuan Walker|
|9-May||at Mariners||L 2-7||12-20||8.5||L4||Jesse Hahn||J.A. Happ|
|10-May||at Mariners||L 3-4||12-21||8.5||L5||Jesse Chavez||Felix Hernandez|
|11-May||vs. Red Sox||L 4-5 (11)||12-22||9.0||L6||Scott Kazmir||Rick Porcello|
|12-May||vs. Red Sox||W 9-2||13-22||8.0||W1||Drew Pomeranz||Justin Masterson|
|13-May||vs. Red Sox||L 0-2||13-23||9.0||L1||Sonny Gray||Wade Miley|