Thursday, Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane told Henry Wofford and Matt Steinmetz on 95.7 the Game, "It'll be really important this first week to see how things go. It'll be a crucial decision time for us these next couple weeks." The A's made some more progress on making up the deficit thanks to the Astros dropping their final six games before the break, but now they must chase the Angels and trail by 8½ games.
|Standings through July 16|
|Steamer/ZiPS projection and BaseRuns projection from Fangraphs. PECOTA from Baseball Prospectus.|
The A's still have four teams to chase, though now the Rangers have also fallen back into more of a best of the rest position with the Angels and Astros up top. The A's are 27-20 since May 23, the best record in the American League since that date. Continuing a .574 winning percentage over the final 71 games would give the A's 81 or 82 wins.
1st. Los Angeles Angels (48-40, 4-2 since 7/7)
The Angels were the winners of the final week, gaining four games on the Astros and taking over the division lead. They'll have to overcome a busy schedule ahead, however, if they want to retain their lead. They have just six off days between now and the end of the season, compared to Oakland's nine.
The Angels own the sixth best bullpen ERA in the American League at the break at 3.42. The Angels have not finished better than seventh since 2011, when Jordan Walden closed for the Halos and Scott Downs locked things down as setup man.
|Angels results since July 7|
|Date||Opponent||Result||Record||Div. GB||Streak||Angels starter||Opp. starter|
|7-Jul||at Rockies||W 10-2||45-38||2.5||W4||Andrew Heaney||Chad Bettis|
|8-Jul||at Rockies||W 3-2||46-38||1.5||W5||Matt Shoemaker||Chris Rusin|
|9-Jul||at Mariners||L 2-7||46-39||1.5||L1||Garrett Richards||Felix Hernandez|
|10-Jul||at Mariners||W 7-3||47-39||0.5||W1||Hector Santiago||Mike Montgomery|
|11-Jul||at Mariners||L 0-5||47-40||0.5||L1||C.J. Wilson||Hisashi Iwakuma|
|12-Jul||at Mariners||W 10-3||48-40||+0.5||W1||Andrew Heaney||Taijuan Walker|
2nd. Houston Astros (49-42, 0-6 since 7/7)
A lot of people have been waiting for the preseason projections to finally come around, and they did in a big way, with the Astros crashing out of first place in the final week of the first half to hit the break at seven games over .500. The Astros also used six different starting pitchers in the final six games, none of whom could get the win thanks to an offense that was shutout twice and scored three runs or fewer in all of their games.
Vincent Velasquez was optioned after his start against the Cleveland Indians to rest him and limit his innings, with Brett Oberholtzer called up to make a spot start. Chad Qualls was activated from the disabled list after Oberholtzer made his start.
Astros attendance appears to be on a pace to pass two million for the first time since 2011.
|Astros results since July 7|
|Date||Opponent||Result||Record||Div. GB||Streak||Astros starter||Opp. starter|
|7-Jul||at Indians||L 0-2||49-37||+2.5||L1||Vincent Velasquez||Corey Kluber|
|8-Jul||at Indians||L 2-4||49-38||+1.5||L2||Dan Straily||Trevor Bauer|
|9-Jul||at Indians||L 1-3||49-39||+1.5||L3||Brett Oberholtzer||Cody Anderson|
|10-Jul||at Rays||L 1-3||49-40||+0.5||L4||Collin McHugh||Erasmo Ramirez|
|11-Jul||at Rays||L 0-3||49-41||+0.5||L5||Dallas Keuchel||Jake Odorizzi|
|12-Jul||at Rays||L 3-4||49-42||0.5||L6||Lance McCullers||Matt Moore|
3rd. Texas Rangers (42-46, 1-4 since 7/7)
The Rangers had nearly as bad a week as the Astros, but salvaged a one-run win against San Diego's Ian Kennedy to avoid getting skunked. Like the Angels, the Rangers also have just six days off between now and the end of the season. Unlike the Angels, few picked the Rangers to end the year near the top of the division.
With the All-Star break comes news that Carlos Corporan and Wandy Rodriguez could be available in trade. Writes Adam J. Morris, "Neither Wandy nor Corporan are likely to bring back a significant return, but if Texas could get a fringe-to-middling prospect for either -- particularly if they don't get back to .500 in the next two weeks -- you have to figure they'd make a move."
|Rangers results since July 7|
|Date||Opponent||Result||Record||Div. GB||Streak||Rangers starter||Opp. starter|
|7-Jul||vs Diamondbacks||L 2-4||41-43||7.0||L4||Yovani Gallardo||Robbie Ray|
|8-Jul||vs Diamondbacks||L 4-7||41-44||7.0||L5||Matt Harrison||Jeremy Hellickson|
|9-Jul||OFF DAY||6.5||OFF DAY|
|10-Jul||vs Padres||W 4-3||42-44||5.5||W1||Wandy Rodriguez||Ian Kennedy|
|11-Jul||vs Padres||L 5-6||42-45||5.5||L1||Colby Lewis||James Shields|
|12-Jul||vs Padres||L 1-2||42-46||6.0||L2||Yovani Gallardo||Tyson Ross|
4th. Seattle Mariners (41-48, 3-3 since 7/7)
The Mariners scored some runs last week! Unfortunately, they also gave up a bunch of runs last week! The result was a choppy 3-3 that squeezes the AL West together just a little bit more as we head into the second half.
There's no reason for Jesus Montero to be back with the Mariners, yet he was recalled anyway. They don't really have a place for him in the lineup. Still, that he's back in the club's good graces after last year's ice cream sandwich incident and reporting to camp this year looking svelte is fantastic for him.
|Mariners results since July 7|
|Date||Opponent||Result||Record||Div. GB||Streak||Mariners starter||Opp. starter|
|7-Jul||vs Tigers||W 7-6 (11)||39-45||9.0||W1||Taijuan Walker||Kyle Ryan|
|8-Jul||vs Tigers||L 4-5||39-46||9.0||L1||J.A. Happ||Anibal Sanchez|
|9-Jul||vs Angels||W 7-2||40-46||8.0||W1||Felix Hernandez||Garrett Richards|
|10-Jul||vs Angels||L 3-7||40-47||8.0||L1||Mike Montgomery||Hector Santiago|
|11-Jul||vs Angels||W 5-0||41-47||7.0||W1||Hisashi Iwakuma||C.J. Wilson|
|12-Jul||vs Angels||L 3-10||41-48||7.5||L1||Taijuan Walker||Andrew Heaney|
5th. Oakland A's (41-50, 3-3 since 7/7)
The A's won two Sonny Gray starts and a bonus Chris Bassitt start, but lost a Scott Kazmir start. Where is that big run of winning five out of six or 10 of 12? The A's have done just enough to stave off the sale of their walk year players, but they'll need a big run like that to hope to come back in the division.
|A's results since July 7|
|Date||Opponent||Result||Record||Div. GB||Streak||A's starter||Opp. starter|
|7-Jul||at Yankees||W 4-3 (10)||39-47||10.0||W1||Sonny Gray||Nathan Eovaldi|
|8-Jul||at Yankees||L 4-5||39-48||10.0||L1||Scott Kazmir||CC Sabathia|
|9-Jul||at Yankees||L 2-6||39-49||10.0||L2||Jesse Chavez||Masahiro Tanaka|
|10-Jul||at Indians||L 1-5||39-50||10.0||L3||Kendall Graveman||Danny Salazar|
|11-Jul||at Indians||W 5-4||40-50||9.0||W1||Chris Bassitt||Carlos Carrasco|
|12-Jul||at Indians||W 2-0||41-50||8.5||W2||Sonny Gray||Corey Kluber|