One week into the 26-week major league season, the Oakland Athletics stand alone in first place in the AL West by a whole game with a 4-3 record. Last year, the A's actually did have a one-game lead once, after the ninth game of the season, with a record of 5-4, though the bullpen was already showing signs that it would not be the lockdown unit this year's relievers seem to be.
Meanwhile, the rest of the division is under .500:
|Standings through April 10|
|Actual||FanGraphs CoolStandings Projection|
|W||L||GB||Since April 4||RS/G||RA/G||Place||W||L||DIV||POFF|
|DIV = Percent chance of winning division. POFF = Percent change of going to postseason|
Here's our weekly jog through the division to see what's new with the A's and our division opponents this week:
1. Oakland A's (4-3)
The A's lost three of four to the White Sox but swept the Seattle Mariners:
|A's results since April 4|
|Date||Opponent||Result||A's rec.||Div. GB||Streak||A's starter||Opp. Starter|
|4-Apr||vs CHW||L 3-4||0-1||1.0||L1||Rich Hill||Chris Sale|
|5-Apr||vs CHW||L 4-5||0-2||1.5||L2||Chris Bassitt||Jose Quintana|
|6-Apr||vs CHW||W 2-1||1-2||1.0||W1||Sonny Gray||Carlos Rodon|
|7-Apr||vs CHW||L 1-6||1-3||1.5||L1||Kendall Graveman||Mat Latos|
|8-Apr||at SEA||W 3-2||2-3||0.5||W1||Eric Surkamp||Taijuan Walker|
|9-Apr||at SEA||W 6-1||3-3||Tied||W2||Rich Hill||Nathan Karns|
|10-Apr||at SEA||W 2-1 (10)||4-3||up 1.0||W3||Chris Bassitt||Felix Hernandez|
The rotation was disrupted from the get-go by two events. First, the A's lost Felix Doubront to fibrous tearing in his left elbow ligament. Second, Sonny Gray reported to the hospital for IV fluids instead of to his scheduled Opening Night start due to the stomach flu. Kendall Graveman was also afflicted by that stomach flu and was limited to 84 pitches in 5 1/3 innings in his start.
Rich Hill was pushed up to make the Opening Night start on regular rest and started the A's season by immediately hitting his first batter. He did not fare long in that game, but the bullpen kept the A's in it against Chris Sale to lose their first one-run contest.
The A's ultimately lost three of four to the White Sox, and most disappointing was losing to right-hander Mat Latos, who is seeking to bounce back after a poor 2015. The biggest concern coming out of the White Sox series was the starting pitching besides Sonny Gray and infield defense, but the A's bullpen appears to have shown it has great depth, even with heavy usage.
The weekend series against the Seattle Mariners saw Eric Surkamp take Felix Doubront's place in the rotation (He had, in turn, taken Jesse Hahn's place in the rotation while Hahn worked out command problems in Triple-A Nashville). Surkamp made it through his first four innings without much trouble and he had a 2-0 lead headed into the fifth due in part to Josh Reddick's first home run of the year, but a home run allowed to Dae-Ho Lee and defensive miscues in the fifth inning led to his exit after getting one out. The A's bullpen locked down the game, however, enabling the A's to win it on Chris Coghlan's ninth inning home run.
Rich Hill then showed off what the A's were hoping they were paying for the next night with his ten-strikeout performance over six innings on Saturday, showing what he can do when he has at least some command of his pitches. He did hit two batters and walked another, but it was a big performance for a pitcher whose value to the club had come into serious doubt after that poor Opening Night and a poor spring. The A's defense also showed a lot of brilliance, and the offense scored a season-high six runs.
On Sunday, the A's faced Felix Hernandez while Billy Butler was omitted from the starting lineup once again, drawing questions about whether he's going to be a strict platoon designated hitter. He's being a team player about his reduced role, however. The A's struck out ten times against Hernandez in his seven innings and Jed Lowrie committed a critical error that let the Mariners put up an unearned run against Chris Bassitt.
Rather than concede, Marcus Semien picked up his first home run of the year to tie the score at one in the eighth inning, and the A's bullpen locked it down yet again until Coco Crisp launched his first home run since August 27, 2014 to put the A's ahead. Sean Doolittle continued to show improving velocity on his fastball as he picked up his first save of the 2016 campaign and the A's stole a King's Court game from the Mariners.
This week, the A's are in the Coliseum to face the Angels for three games starting on Monday, take their first off day of the season on Thursday, and finish up with three games against the defending World Series champions, the Kansas City Royals.
2. Texas Rangers (3-4, 1.0 GB)
The Rangers lost two of three to the Seattle Mariners and split four games with the Los Angeles Angels:
|Rangers results since April 4|
|Date||Opponent||Result||Rangers rec.||Div. GB||Streak||Rangers starter||Opp. starter|
|4-Apr||vs SEA||W 3-2||1-0||up 0.5||W1||Cole Hamels||Felix Hernandez|
|5-Apr||vs SEA||L 2-10||1-1||0.5||L1||Martin Perez||Hisashi Iwakuma|
|6-Apr||vs SEA||L 5-9||1-2||1.0||L2||Colby Lewis||Wade Miley|
|7-Apr||at LAA||L 3-4||1-3||1.5||L3||Derek Holland||Hector Santiago|
|8-Apr||at LAA||W 7-3||2-3||0.5||W1||A.J. Griffin||Matt Shoemaker|
|9-Apr||at LAA||W 4-1||3-3||Tied||W2||Cole Hamels||Garrett Richards|
|10-Apr||at LAA||L 1-3||3-4||1.0||L1||Martin Perez||Jered Weaver|
Injury disaster struck the Texas Rangers this week as both catcher Robinson Chirinos and outfielder Shin-Soo Choo will miss extended time:
Chirinos will be out 10-12 weeks; Choo 4-6 with Grade 2 calf strain. No moves yet, but Chirinos will go on 60.....— Evan Grant (@Evan_P_Grant) April 10, 2016
Chirinos was hit by a pitch on Saturday, and Brett Nicholas was called up to serve as the backup to Bryan Holaday, though one has to believe the Rangers are thoroughly considering outside options. For Choo, the Rangers called up top outfield prospect Nomar Mazara (#5 overall on Baseball Prospectus, #21 in Baseball America).
Yu Darvish threw a 50-pitch bullpen on April 5 as he works to come back from Tommy John surgery, and will throw live batting practice next. He's on track for beginning a minor league rehab assignment around the end of April before rejoining the major league club in late May.
In the games themselves, the Rangers did well to take advantage of walks from Felix Hernandez and fielding errors to win a one-hitter against them by the score of 3-2. A.J. Griffin got Texas' earned Texas' second win of the year, defeating Matt Shoemaker. Texas has won both games that Cole Hamels has started.
The Rangers travel to Safeco Field to visit the Rangers for three games before hosting the Baltimore Orioles in Arlington for four games.
T-3. Houston Astros (2-4, 1.5 GB)
The Astros lost two out of three games to both the New York Yankees and the Milwaukee Brewers:
|Astros results since April 4|
|Date||Opponent||Result||Astros rec.||Div. GB||Streak||Astros starter||Opp. starter|
|4-Apr||at NYY postponed to April 5||0.5||at NYY postponed to April 5|
|5-Apr||at NYY||W 5-3||1-0||up 0.5||W1||Dallas Keuchel||Masahiro Tanaka|
|6-Apr||at NYY||L 6-16||1-1||0.5||L1||Collin McHugh||Michael Pineda|
|7-Apr||at NYY||L 5-8||1-2||1.0||L2||Mike Fiers||Nathan Eovaldi|
|8-Apr||at MIL||L 4-6||1-3||1.0||L3||Scott Feldman||Chase Anderson|
|9-Apr||at MIL||W 6-4||2-3||0.5||W1||Doug Fister||Wily Peralta|
|10-Apr||at MIL||L 2-3||2-4||1.5||L1||Dallas Keuchel||Jimmy Nelson|
Not a lot of major news for the Astros. Luke Gregerson was declared the closer to start the season, though offseason acquisition Ken "100 miles" Giles will remain at his heels.
Houston has done a lot of scoring, but they've given up a lot more runs. Collin McHugh turned in an awful start on April 6, recording just one out and getting charged with six runs (five earned) on three hits and two walks. Michael Feliz was forced to eat as many innings as he could take, and he threw 107 pitches over 4 1/3 innings while giving up six more runs of his own. The Astros optioned Feliz out to call up Chris Devenski. The upshot of that is that the Astros have the 2nd worst bullpen ERA in the American League at 6.65 to start the year, ahead of only the Texas Rangers at 6.98.
T-3. Los Angeles Angels (2-4, 1.5 GB)
The Angels were swept in a two-game series with the Chicago Cubs and then split four games with the Texas Rangers:
|Angels results since April 4|
|Date||Opponent||Result||Angels rec.||Div. GB||Streak||Angels starter||Opp. Starter|
|4-Apr||vs CHC||L 0-9||0-1||1.0||L1||Garrett Richards||Jake Arrieta|
|5-Apr||vs CHC||L 1-6||0-2||1.5||L2||Andrew Heaney||Jon Lester|
|6-Apr||OFF DAY||1.5||OFF DAY|
|7-Apr||vs TEX||W 4-3||1-2||1.0||W1||Hector Santiago||Derek Holland|
|8-Apr||vs TEX||L 3-7||1-3||1.0||L1||Matt Shoemaker||A.J. Griffin|
|9-Apr||vs TEX||L 1-4||1-4||1.5||L2||Garrett Richards||Cole Hamels|
|10-Apr||vs TEX||W 3-1||2-4||1.5||W1||Jered Weaver||Martin Perez|
Yes, the Angels ran into the Cubs' buzzsaw early, being held to one run through their first 18 innings. The Angels have scored only two runs per game so far while giving up five at a time.
Meanwhile, the injury bug is also hitting the Halos. Andrew Heaney went on the disabled list with a strained flexor muscle in his left forearm, though he's been told he has a "fat and healthy" UCL.
Eppler said Heaney will rest his arm a couple weeks and they'll go from there.— Jeff Fletcher (@JeffFletcherOCR) April 6, 2016
The Astros next host the Kansas City Royals for four games and then the Detroit Tigers for three.
T-3. Seattle Mariners (2-4, 1.5 GB)
The Mariners took two out of three on road in Texas, but were swept by the A's in the weekend three-game set:
|Mariners results since April 4|
|Date||Opponent||Result||Mariners rec.||Div. GB||Streak||Mariners starter||Opp. starter|
|4-Apr||at TEX||L 2-3||0-1||1.0||L1||Felix Hernandez||Cole Hamels|
|5-Apr||at TEX||W 10-2||1-1||0.5||W1||Hisashi Iwakuma||Martin Perez|
|6-Apr||at TEX||W 9-5||2-1||up 0.5||W2||Wade Miley||Colby Lewis|
|7-Apr||OFF DAY||up 0.5||OFF DAY|
|8-Apr||vs OAK||L 2-3||2-2||up 0.5||L1||Taijuan Walker||Eric Surkamp|
|9-Apr||vs OAK||L 1-6||2-3||0.5||L2||Nathan Karns||Rich Hill|
|10-Apr||vs OAK||L 1-2 (10)||2-4||1.5||L3||Felix Hernandez||Chris Bassitt|
Despite their Opening Day one-hitter loss to Texas, the Mariners were flying high after Robinson Canó hit four home runs in his first three games coming off a somewhat disappointing 2015 at the plate. They returned to Safeco Field to run into Oakland's revamped bullpen and hit the highest part of Oakland's high-upside rotation, getting swept without even facing Sonny Gray.
The Mariners host the Texas Rangers for three games before flying east to open a three-city road trip with three games at Yankee Stadium.