While the Oakland A's had the worst week in the AL West for the second week in a row, nobody else in the division performed very well. Texas gained two games against the A's and moved into first in the division. Their FanGraphs playoff odds improved immensely, moving from 6-to-1 against to 4-1 against. The Mariners treaded water, and it's still a coin flip now whether Seattle or another AL West team wins the division.
Here are the Week 6 standings, with 20 weeks to go:
|Standings through May 15|
|Actual||FanGraphs CoolStandings Projection|
|W||L||GB||Since May 9||RS/G||RA/G||Place||W||L||DIV||POFF|
|DIV = Percent chance of winning division. POFF = Percent chance of going to postseason, including the Wild Card Game.|
By the end of the week, the teams will be approaching the three-quarter pole. Here's our weekly jog through the division to see what's new with the A's and their division opponents this week:
1. Texas Rangers (22-16)
The Rangers took two out of three from the White Sox and Blue Jays at Globe Life Park:
|Rangers results since May 9|
|Date||Opponent||W/L||RS||RA||Inn||Rangers rec.||Div. GB||Streak|
|15-May||vs TOR||W||7||6||22-16||up 0.5||W2|
The big story for the Rangers is the major dustup between the Blue Jays and Rangers on Sunday that will lead to a lengthy suspension for Rougned Odor for landing a right cross on Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista and suspensions for several other players and coaches. Discipline has not yet been announced by the Commissioner's Office, though the length of player suspensions will surely be appealed.
Matt Bush called up
The other story of interest is the Texas Rangers called up pitcher Matt Bush to serve out of the bullpen. I've rewritten this section a few times struggling to come up with the right way to express my mixed emotions on his getting to the major leagues. Lone Star Ball's minor leagues writer posted an excellent article expressing his thoughts on Bush, but I'll add my own two cents.
Bush has caused a lot of people harm as a result of his alcoholism, including nearly killing motorcyclist Tony Tufano while leaving the scene of an alcohol-related collision with a motorcyclist. Bush served around three years in prison for the crime, his third DUI conviction.
Alcoholism is a disease, and in the abstract I want to push all of the blame on Bush's disease and forgive the person trapped by it. But I'm confronted by the reality of the people he has hurt and can't shake this need to blame him for not getting the treatment that could have helped him as his behavior escalated.
I think it's alright to feel conflicted. And it's alright to have a strong attitude one way or the other about Bush, whether it's a complete attitude of forgiveness or a complete attitude of disgust. Each of us has a unique experience with people affected by addiction, or perhaps been addicts ourselves, and I think the best we can do is to try to understand the different perspectives.
The Rangers may soon get two starting pitchers back. Yu Darvish is on track to return May 27, and A.J. Griffin will soon make at least one rehab start before returning from a shoulder issue after his MRI came back clean. Outfielder Shin-Soo Choo could return to the Rangers on Friday.
The Rangers next visit Oakland for three games, take Thursday off, then visit Houston for three.
2. Seattle Mariners (21-16, 0.5 GB)
The Mariners were poised to start running away with the West after sweeping the Tampa Bay Rays, but Seattle instead found itself swept by the Angels:
|Mariners results since May 9|
|Date||Opponent||Result||RS||RA||Inn||Mariners rec.||Div. GB||Streak|
|9-May||vs TBR||W||5||2||19-13||up 1.5||W1|
|10-May||vs TBR||W||6||4||20-13||up 1.5||W2|
|11-May||vs TBR||W||6||5||11||21-13||up 1.5||W3|
|12-May||OFF DAY||up 1.5||OFF|
|13-May||vs LAA||L||6||7||21-14||up 1.5||L1|
|14-May||vs LAA||L||7||9||21-15||up 0.5||L2|
Considering all the injuries the Angels have suffered in the last two weeks, this has to be one of the more unlikely sweeps baseball will see all year. Seattle did just enough to lose all three contests. Seattle's bullpen failed to deliver wins to Nate Karns and Hisashi Iwakuma while Seattle's offense failed to deliver any runs to Felix Hernandez.
That shaky Mariners bullpen may get Joaquin Benoit back this week, however, and Charlie Furbush could return soon after.
After taking Monday off, the Mariners head east for three games in Baltimore and three games in Cincinnati.
3. Los Angeles Angels (16-21, 5.5 GB)
The Angels were swept by the Cardinals but swept the Mariners:
|Angels results since May 9|
|Date||Opponent||W/L||RS||RA||Inn||Angels rec.||Div. GB||Streak|
Let's be clear. The Angels are still hosed. They were hosed before losing Andrelton Simmons until at least July and they were hosed before putting Cliff Pennington on the disabled list with a hamstring issue. They were hosed before they were literally playing Jefry Marte and Gregorio Petit. They are hosed no matter how Andrew Heaney's platelet-rich plasma injection goes.
But golly they did everybody else in the AL West a huge favor by sweeping the Mariners, including getting a seven-inning start from new acquisition Jhoulys Chacin.
This week, the Angels play four game against the Dodgers, two in Chavez Ravine and two at the Big A, followed by hosting three against the Orioles.
4. Oakland A's (16-22, 6.0 GB)
The A's were walloped by the Red Sox but took two of three from the Rays:
|A's results since May 9|
|Date||Opponent||W/L||RS||RA||Inn||A's rec.||Div. GB||Streak|
The A's ran into the Red Sox buzzsaw, and with the last game against the Orioles dropped 11 runs or more in four straight games, a task accomplished by only four other MLB teams since 1929. A critical long relief effort from Zach Neal on Wednesday and a day off on Thursday greatly helped the A's bullpen reset.
While Danny Valencia's five home runs against the Rays were massive in turning around Oakland's fortunes, the rested bullpen helped propel the A's to their weekend series win. Oakland's relievers held Tampa Bay scoreless over 6 1/3 relief innings in the Friday and Sunday wins while allowing two runs in 2 1/3 innings in the shutout loss on Saturday. The shutout was Oakland's first, and they were the last team in the AL to be shutout this year.
John Axford returned to the mound Sunday for the first time since taking a batted ball off his foot against the Red Sox, with Brooks Baseball saying Axford averaged 98.6 on his fastball, maxing out at 99.7.
Newly injured and still injured
Second baseman Jed Lowrie did go on the disabled list with a severe shin bruise, but it sounds like he might not need more than the minimum time to return. Catcher Josh Phegley got a cortisone shot for right knee inflammation and missed the Tampa Bay series, but he will probably be available for the games against Texas, which is entirely against left-handed pitching.
Mark Canha is evaluating his options for his hip injury. Hopefully a cortisone shot will be sufficient. Otherwise Canha will have to have season-ending surgery.
Henderson Alvarez returning this week, Jesse Hahn too?
Starting pitcher Henderson Alvarez is on track to start Friday's contest against the New York Yankees after he tossed 75 pitches and five innings on Monday for the Nashville Sounds. Alvarez struck out eight, walked one, and allowed one home run in giving up six hits and two runs over five innings. Alvarez recorded four groundball outs to two flyouts.
Jesse Hahn is not eligible to return to the A's until Wednesday, meaning Eric Surkamp will start Tuesday's contest against the Rangers. However, the A's are having the Sounds re-insert Zach Neal into the Nashville rotation for Tuesday and have not announced whether Hahn will make another start for them. The A's have the choice of giving their starters an extra day of rest by inserting Hahn on Wednesday.
If both Alvarez and Hahn are called up, the A's will have to choose whether to demote Sean Manaea or Kendall Graveman after they demote Eric Surkamp.
The A's host the division-leading Texas Rangers for three games and then welcome the New York Yankees for four games.
5. Houston Astros (15-24, 7.5 GB)
The Astros took two of three from the Indians but dropped three of four to the Red Sox:
|Astros results since May 9|
|Date||Opponent||W/L||RS||RA||Inn||Astros rec.||Div. GB||Streak|
The Houston Astros are still trying to find a winning streak longer than two games. Lance McCullers was activated from the disabled list and pitched 4 2/3 innings of five-run ball against the Boston Red Sox, handing the game to Scott Feldman in Houston's 7-6 win.
They do get another player back this week. Evan Gattis will be called up to become the second catcher over Erik Kratz, who was designated for assignment.
Coming up, Houston travels to Chicago for three games against the White Sox beginning on Tuesday, and then they return home to host the Rangers for three games.