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Oakland A's start to turn it around: 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.

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Astros maintained their four game lead in the AL West over the Los Angeles Angels. It's the Rangers that have had the best run since Oakland was last off on May 14, moving into third place and trailing by five. The Oakland Athletics have fallen from nine games back to 12 games back, though they've finally stopped their horrific skid, coming back from as far behind as 13½ down on May 27.

Standings through May 31
Actual
Steamer/ZiPS
projection
PECOTA
projection
BaseRuns
extrapolation
W L GB Since 5/14 RS/G RA/G Place W L Place W L Place W L
Astros 31 20 -- 10-7 4.3 3.9 T-1st 85 77 T-2nd 84 78 1st 95 67
Angels 27 24 4.0 10-7 3.9 3.8 T-1st 85 77 1st 89 73 3rd 81 81
Rangers 26 25 5.0 11-6 4.6 4.6 4th 77 85 4th 81 81 T-4th 79 83
Mariners 24 26 6.5 9-8 3.7 4.1 3rd 84 78 T-2nd 84 78 T-4th 79 83
Athletics 20 33 12.0 7-10 4.2 4.2 5th 76 86 5th 75 87 2nd 82 80
Steamer/ZiPS projection and BaseRuns extrapolation from Fangraphs. PECOTA from Baseball Prospectus.

The Astros trail only the Minnesota Twins for best record in the American League, which three years ago would have been a completely bizarre sentence to write for any number of reasons.

1. Houston Astros (31-20, 10-7 since 5/14)

The Astros launched a four-game sweep against the Toronto Blue Jays and won a three game set against the A's before heading out on the road. They only managed to split with the Tigers, and lost series against the Orioles and then back home against the White Sox.

Brett Oberholtzer was formally placed on the disabled list on May 14 with a recurrence of his blister issues, but he will start for the Astros for the June 1 game against the Baltimore Orioles. He takes the place of Scott Feldman, who goes on the disabled list with a torn medial meniscus that will keep him out for at least six weeks.

Lance McCullers has taken over the spot that had been vacated by Oberholtzer, and remains open with Feldman's injury. The A's saw McCullers for his major league debut on May 18, when he held the A's to three hits and one run with five strikeouts, but could only last through 4⅔ innings because of three walks and a number of battles. He made 93 pitches. He's made two starts since then, first getting the win and a quality start against the Tigers on May 23. Then he again pitched well but did not go deep, surviving just 4⅓ innings against the White Sox while striking out seven, walking two, and hitting two.

Long reliever Sam Deduno was placed on the disabled list with back tightness on May 18, and his progress was shut down on May 31.

Astros results since May 14
Date Opponent Result Astros rec. Div. GB Streak Astros starter Opp. starter
14-May vs. Blue Jays W 6-4 22-13 +4.5 W2 Roberto Hernandez Drew Hutchison
15-May vs. Blue Jays W 8-4 23-13 +4.5 W3 Dallas Keuchel R.A. Dickey
16-May vs. Blue Jays W 6-5 24-13 +4.5 W4 Scott Feldman Marco Estrada
17-May vs. Blue Jays W 4-2 25-13 +5.5 W5 Collin McHugh Mark Buehrle
18-May vs. A's L 1-2 25-14 +5.5 L1 Lance McCullers Drew Pomeranz
19-May vs. A's W 6-4 26-14 +5.5 W1 Roberto Hernandez Sonny Gray
20-May vs. A's W 6-1 27-14 +5.5 W2 Dallas Keuchel Jesse Hahn
21-May at Tigers L 5-6 (11) 27-15 +5.5 L1 Scott Feldman David Price
22-May at Tigers L 2-6 27-16 +4.5 L2 Collin McHugh Alfredo Simon
23-May at Tigers W 3-2 28-16 +5.5 W1 Lance McCullers Kyle Lobstein
24-May at Tigers W 10-8 29-16 +6.5 W2 Roberto Hernandez Anibal Sanchez
25-May at Orioles L 3-4 29-17 +5.5 L1 Dallas Keuchel Wei-Yin Chen
26-May at Orioles W 4-1 30-17 +6.5 W1 Scott Feldman Chris Tillman
27-May at Orioles L 4-5 30-18 +6.0 L1 Collin McHugh Ubaldo Jimenez
28-May OFF DAY +6.0 OFF DAY
29-May vs. White Sox L 3-6 (11) 30-19 +5.0 L2 Lance McCullers Carlos Rodon
30-May vs. White Sox W 3-0 31-19 +5.0 W1 Dallas Keuchel Jose Quintana
31-May vs. White Sox L 0-6 31-20 +4.0 L1 Roberto Hernandez John Danks

2. Los Angeles Angels (27-24, 10-7 since 5/14)

The Angels have been streaky since May 14. They began this period by getting two more wins against the Orioles to extend the Halos' win streak to five, then split four games with the Blue Jays, lost two of three to the Red Sox, lost two of three to the Padres, and then swept four from the Tigers.

Perhaps most exciting to the Angels is the recent resurgence of outfielder Matt Joyce, who has three home runs in the last four days, and since May 16 is batting .293/.431/.585, with three home runs and three doubles.

In transactions news:

  • Reliever Mike Morin (6.00 ERA, 15.0 IP, 2 SO, 5 BB) is on the disabled list with a strained left oblique since May 24 and Cam Bedrosian was called up in his place.
  • First baseman C.J. Cron (.204/.225/.276, 102 PA) was optioned to the minors on May 26, with Grant Green recalled. Green is 4-for-18 with a walk and six strikeouts so far.
  • The Mets sent outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis to the Angels for cash considerations. Reliever Chad Smith and first baseman/outfielder Marc Krauss were designated for assignment.
  • Outfielder Collin Cowgill went on the disabled list May 28 with a wrist injury that might not be for more than the minimum time. Alfredo Marte was called up to take his place.
  • Reliever Vinnie Pestano (4.22 ERA, 10.2 IP, 13 SO, 8 BB) was optioned and Efren Navarro recalled.

The Angels play three against the Rays at the Big A before heading east to play three at Yankee Stadium.

Angels results since May 14
Date Opponent Result Angels rec. Div. GB Streak Angels starter Opp. Starter
14-May OFF DAY 4.5 OFF DAY
15-May at Orioles W 3-1 18-17 4.5 W4 Jered Weaver Wei-Yin Chen
16-May at Orioles W 6-1 19-17 4.5 W5 Matt Shoemaker Ubaldo Jimenez
17-May at Orioles L 0-3 19-18 5.5 L1 Garrett Richards Mike Wright
18-May at Blue Jays L 6-10 19-19 5.5 L2 C.J. Wilson Todd Redmond
19-May at Blue Jays W 3-2 20-19 5.5 W1 Hector Santiago Aaron Sanchez
20-May at Blue Jays W 4-3 21-19 5.5 W2 Jered Weaver Drew Hutchison
21-May at Blue Jays L 4-8 21-20 5.5 L1 Matt Shoemaker R.A. Dickey
22-May at Red Sox W 12-5 22-20 4.5 W1 Garrett Richards Rick Porcello
23-May at Red Sox L 3-8 22-21 5.5 L1 C.J. Wilson Steven Wright
24-May at Red Sox L 1-6 22-22 6.5 L2 Hector Santiago Wade Miley
25-May vs. Padres W 4-3 23-22 5.5 W1 Jered Weaver Tyson Ross
26-May vs. Padres L 0-4 (10) 23-23 6.5 L1 Matt Shoemaker Odrisamer Despaigne
27-May vs. Padres L 4-5 23-24 6.5 L2 Garrett Richards Andrew Cashner
28-May vs. Tigers W 12-2 24-24 6.0 W1 C.J. Wilson Buck Farmer
29-May vs. Tigers W 2-0 25-24 5.0 W2 Hector Santiago Anibal Sanchez
30-May vs. Tigers W 8-6 26-24 5.0 W3 Jered Weaver Shane Greene
31-May vs. Tigers W 4-2 27-24 4.0 W4 Matt Shoemaker David Price

3. Texas Rangers (26-25, 11-6 since 5/14)

The first big story of the last two weeks for the Rangers is the return of Josh Hamilton to the Ballpark in Arlington. Hamilton is easily the biggest steal for the Rangers if he can continue his torrid pace, now that he is 6-for-22 with two home runs that included a walk off pinch hit double on May 31.

The Rangers were the best of the five AL West teams since May 14, passing the Mariners to move into third place.

The disabled list welcomed four more Texas players!

  1. Ross Detwiler went on the DL with shoulder inflammation, but he is on a rehab assignment now and could be activated soon. Though he has been pushed to the bullpen by his eventual replacement, Chi Chi Gonzalez.
  2. Kyle Blanks is on the DL with a pilonidal cyst (don't Google it). Jake Smolinski was up for a little while until he was effectively replaced by Josh Hamilton.
  3. Reliever Neftali Feliz (5.09 ERA, 17.2 IP, 15 SO, 3 BB) is on the DLt with an abscess under his right arm, he was effectively replaced by Jon Edwards.
  4. Adrian Beltre has a sprained thumb.

Yes, Adrian Beltre is going on the disabled list with a thumb sprain that will keep him out at least two weeks. Beltre's hitting has suffered a bit this year, his age-36 season, at .258/.294/.408. He still has six home runs though, and I bet the A's will be glad to miss Beltre when the Rangers visit the Coliseum next week. In Beltre's place, however, comes highly-touted 21-year-old prospect Joey Gallo, who has 113 professional home runs since he was drafted in the June 2012 draft.

This week, the Rangers face the White Sox and then visit the Royals.

Rangers results since May 14
Date Opponent Result Rangers rec. Div. GB Streak Rangers starter Opp. starter
14-May vs. Royals L 3-6 15-20 7.0 L1 Ross Detwiler Jeremy Guthrie
15-May vs. Indians L 3-8 15-21 8.0 L2 Wandy Rodriguez Bruce Chen
16-May vs. Indians L 8-10 15-22 9.0 L3 Colby Lewis Danny Salazar
17-May vs. Indians W 5-1 16-22 9.0 W1 Nick Martinez Carlos Carrasco
18-May OFF DAY 8.5 OFF DAY
19-May at Red Sox L 3-4 16-23 9.5 L1 Yovani Gallardo Wade Miley
20-May at Red Sox W 2-1 17-23 9.5 W1 Phil Klein Joe Kelly
21-May at Red Sox W 3-1 18-23 8.5 W2 Wandy Rodriguez Clay Buchholz
22-May at Yankees W 10-9 19-23 7.5 W3 Colby Lewis Michael Pineda
23-May at Yankees W 15-4 20-23 7.5 W4 Nick Martinez CC Sabathia
24-May at Yankees W 5-2 21-23 7.5 W5 Yovani Gallardo Chris Capuano
25-May at Indians W 10-8 22-23 6.5 W6 Phil Klein Shaun Marcum
26-May at Indians W 4-3 23-23 6.5 W7 Wandy Rodriguez Danny Salazar
27-May at Indians L 3-12 23-24 6.5 L1 Colby Lewis Carlos Carrasco
28-May vs. Red Sox L 1-5 23-25 7.0 L2 Nick Martinez Eduardo Rodriguez
29-May vs. Red Sox W 7-4 24-25 6.0 W1 Yovani Gallardo Steven Wright
30-May vs. Red Sox W 8-0 25-25 6.0 W2 Chi Chi Gonzalez Wade Miley
31-May vs. Red Sox W 4-3 26-25 5.0 W3 Wandy Rodriguez Joe Kelly

4. Seattle Mariners (24-26, 9-8 since 5/14)

The Mariners scored four runs or fewer in 15 of their last 17 games. Playing a lot of low-scoring tight games is not great when, over the last two weeks, the bullpen has the fifth-worst ERA in the American League (4.29). The bullpen was credited with four of their last eight losses.

A big concern with the offense is that Robinson Cano's slow start is that it is beginning to look like what you might see when we get to the steep decline phase of his aging curve, writes Lookout Landing's Colin O'Keefe on May 19. The 32-year-old Cano has always had plate discipline issues, but now he's not making contact with as many pitches out of the zone as he had been previously. The result is a wRC+ of 80, easily a career worst mark. Cano is signed on a $24 million per year deal until 2023.

And now the Mariners have to wonder if Taijuan Walker needs to go back to the minor leagues. Entering May 14 with a 7.22 ERA, he proceeded to make two more poor starts, giving up eight runs total over 9⅓ innings, before pitching eight shutout innings against the Cleveland Indians.

Walker may have avoided the axe for now thanks to James Paxton going on the disabled list May 29 with a strained tendon in the middle finger of his pitching hand. The Mariners will start Mike Montgomery for his major league debut against the New York Yankees.

Mariners results since May 14
Date Opponent Result Mariners rec. Div. GB Streak Mariners starter Opp. starter
14-May vs. Red Sox L 1-2 15-19 6.5 L2 Roenis Elias Joe Kelly
15-May vs. Red Sox W 2-1 16-19 6.5 W1 J.A. Happ Clay Buchholz
16-May vs. Red Sox L 2-4 16-20 7.5 L1 Felix Hernandez Rick Porcello
17-May vs. Red Sox W 5-0 17-20 7.5 W1 James Paxton Steven Wright
18-May OFF DAY OFF DAY
19-May at Orioles L 4-9 17-21 8.0 L1 Taijuan Walker Miguel Gonzalez
20-May at Orioles W 4-2 18-21 8.0 W1 Roenis Elias Wei-Yin Chen
21-May at Orioles L 4-5 18-22 8.0 L1 J.A. Happ Chris Tillman
22-May at Blue Jays W 4-3 19-22 7.0 W1 Felix Hernandez Marco Estrada
23-May at Blue Jays W 3-2 20-22 7.0 W2 James Paxton Mark Buehrle
24-May at Blue Jays L 2-8 20-23 8.0 L1 Taijuan Walker Aaron Sanchez
25-May at Rays W 4-1 21-23 7.0 W1 Roenis Elias Jake Odorizzi
26-May at Rays W 7-6 (10) 22-23 7.0 W2 J.A. Happ Alex Colome
27-May at Rays W 3-0 23-23 6.0 W3 Felix Hernandez Chris Archer
28-May vs. Indians L 3-5 23-24 6.5 L1 James Paxton Corey Kluber
29-May vs. Indians W 2-1 24-24 5.5 W1 Taijuan Walker Trevor Bauer
30-May vs. Indians L 3-4 24-25 6.5 L1 Roenis Elias Shaun Marcum
31-May vs. Indians L 3-6 (12) 24-26 6.5 L2 J.A. Happ Danny Salazar

5. Oakland Athletics (20-33, 7-10 since 5/14)

What a difference a week makes. After starting the first nine games 1-7 against the White Sox, Astros, and Rays, the A's finished this set of games 6-3 against the Rays, Tigers, and Yankees. They earned their first three-game winning streak of the year, and won their first homestand after taking three of four from the Yankees.

In this time, Oakland's transaction log is filled with disabled list visits: Ike Davis, Drew Pomeranz, Edward Mujica, Coco Crisp, and Sean Doolittle all went on the 15-day disabled list, with Davis and Crisp out for significantly longer than the minimum period. The A's welcomed Doolittle back for one game before shoulder inflammation shut him down again.

Ben Zobrist has returned to go 5-for-20 with two doubles, a walk, and three strikeouts since his activation. For the year, Zobrist is batting .243/.299/.385 in 77 plate appearances.

The A's have just six games in the Eastern Time Zone before their next off day, with three against the Detroit Tigers and three against the Boston Red Sox.

A's results since May 14
Date Opponent Result A's rec. Div. GB Streak A's starter Opp. Starter
14-May OFF DAY 9.5 OFF DAY
15-May vs. White Sox L 6-7 13-24 10.5 L2 Jesse Hahn Carlos Rodon
16-May vs. White Sox L 3-4 13-25 11.5 L3 Jesse Chavez John Danks
17-May vs. White Sox L 3-7 13-26 12.5 L4 Scott Kazmir Jeff Samardzija
18-May at Astros W 2-1 14-26 11.5 W1 Drew Pomeranz Lance McCullers
19-May at Astros L 4-6 14-27 12.5 L1 Sonny Gray Roberto Hernandez
20-May at Astros L 1-6 14-28 13.5 L2 Jesse Hahn Dallas Keuchel
21-May at Rays L 0-3 14-29 13.5 L3 Jesse Chavez Alex Colome
22-May at Rays L 2-5 14-30 13.5 L4 Scott Kazmir Chris Archer
23-May at Rays W 5-0 15-30 13.5 W1 Kendall Graveman Nate Karns
24-May at Rays W 7-2 16-30 13.5 W2 Sonny Gray Erasmo Ramirez
25-May vs. Tigers W 4-0 17-30 12.5 W3 Jesse Hahn Shane Greene
26-May vs. Tigers L 0-1 17-31 13.5 L1 Jesse Chavez David Price
27-May vs. Tigers L 2-3 17-32 13.5 L2 Scott Kazmir Alex Wilson
28-May vs. Yankees W 5-4 18-32 13.0 W1 Kendall Graveman CC Sabathia
29-May vs. Yankees W 6-2 19-32 12.0 W2 Sonny Gray Chris Capuano
30-May vs. Yankees L 3-5 19-33 13.0 L1 Jesse Hahn Nathan Eovaldi
31-May vs. Yankees W 3-0 20-33 12.0 W1 Jesse Chavez Adam Warren