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Oakland A's trail Houston Astros by 9 games: AL West reset

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Every off day, we reset the AL West landscape, updating you on the standings and key storylines from around the division.

Astros mascot Orbit celebrates a win over the San Francisco Giants.
Astros mascot Orbit celebrates a win over the San Francisco Giants.
Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

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
Actual
Steamer/ZiPS
projection
PECOTA
projection
Pythagenpat
extrapolation
W L GB Since 4/27 RS/G RA/G Place W L Place W L Place W L
Astros 21 13 -- 10-6 4.3 3.9 3rd 82 80 3rd 82 80 1st 91 71
Angels 17 17 4.0 8-7 3.7 3.6 2nd 83 79 1st 88 74 2nd 81 81
Mariners 15 18 5.5 8-7 3.9 4.4 1st 84 78 2nd 84 78 T-4th 73 89
Rangers 15 19 6.0 8-8 4.1 4.5 5th 74 88 5th 77 85 T-4th 73 89
Athletics 13 23 9.0 5-11 4.6 4.6 4th 79 83 4th 78 84 3rd 76 86
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:

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 Iwakumawho was shut down after suffering a setback in his return from a lat strain.

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 SacramentoYou 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