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What A.L. West Division looks like for the Astros as they head into the second half of the season

Alex Bregman #2 of the Houston Astros hits a three run home run in the second inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Minute Maid Park on June 14, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Alex Bregman #2 of the Houston Astros hits a three run home run in the second inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Minute Maid Park on June 14, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) (Bob Levey/Getty Images)

HOUSTON – The Houston Astros will open the post all-star break portion of the season with a healthy lead in the A.L. west division. They lead Oakland by 7.5 games and Texas by nine games - and they begin play on Thursday in Arlington against the Rangers.

Breaking down the A.L. West Division

Houston Astros
Record: 57-33, lead division by 7.5 games
Record vs division: 26-7
5: number of consecutive games with a home run for Yuli Gurriel. (He’s also homered in nine of his last 11 games).
0.81: Justin Verlander’s WHIP (leads MLB)
170: Gerrit Cole’s strikeout total, (leads AL)

Houston will use lefty Framber Valdez to start their first game after the all-star break, with Verlander, Wade Miley and Cole to follow and likely Brad Peacock rejoining the rotation to make the stsrt in the series opener at Anaheim on Monday. While the Astros rank 2nd in major league baseball in strikeouts per nine innings and strikeout to walk ratio and lead all of baseball in batting average against (.221), it appears the team believes they need to add a pitcher to their starting rotation before the July 31 trading deadline.

The Astros also expect to fortify their already strong lineup with the return of shortstop Carlos Correa sometime likely before the end of July. Correa has been out since May 26 after fracturing a rib. His .547 slugging percentage would rank third on the team if he had enough at-bats to qualify. Rookie Yordan Alvarez has 25 RBI in his first 19 career games.

Oakland Athletics
Record: 50-41, trail Houston by 7.5 games
Record vs Houston: 1-7
145: A’s home runs hit before the all-star break, a new franchise record
46: XBH for 1st time all-star Matt Chapman (2nd in AL)
0-29: record in games they trailed after 7 innings, 1 of three teams without a win.

If the A’s find a way to stay in the race most likely it will be because their starting pitching staff continues to perform much better than expected. The loss of starter Frankie Montas to an 80 game suspension in June after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance will hurt though. He posted a 2.70 ERA in 15 games, which would rank among the best in baseball. As recently as June 16, Oakland was a .500 team, but they’ve gone 14-5 since to climb within striking distance of the Astros and well within reach of a wild-card berth.

Texas Rangers
Record: 48-42, trail Houston by 9 games
Record vs Houston: 4-6
16: number of games against West division foes out of their first 18 after the all-star break
35: games remaining at Globe Life Park, opened in 1994. Texas moves to Globe Life Field next season.
11.90: at-bats per home run for all-star Joey Gallo in his career (which ranks 3rd in MLB history)

The Rangers are still close enough to the wild card contenders to believe they can chase a postseason berth, but have several very desirable starting pitching commodities in all-star Mike Minor (8-4, 2.54 ERA) and Lance Lynn (11-4, 3.91 ERA) who will start their Thursday game against the Astros. Each could fetch a solid haul of prospects if the Rangers choose to move them before the trade deadline. That’s why the next two weeks are so vital to the Rangers with a pair of series against the Astros and all but two of their games before July 31 are against west division foes. The Rangers have been one of the biggest surprise teams in baseball.

Los Angeles Angels
Record: 45-46, trail Houston by 12.5 games
Record vs Houston: 1-4
28: home runs for Mike Trout, the most in Angels history at the all-star break
22: consecutive games the Angels have allowed a home run, the longest streak in club history
59: career home runs hit by Albert Pujols against the Astros, the most by any opposing player

The Angels pitching staff has not been quite strong enough to keep them in the race, they rank in the bottom 10 in baseball in ERA, while ranking in the top five in walks issued. Mike Trout is the best player in baseball and he’s showing it once again, posting the best numbers in the American League in on-base percentage (.453), slugging percentage (.646), .OPS (1.098) and WAR (wins above replacement) (5.9). But he’s also likely to miss the playoffs with the Angels for the fifth consecutive season. The Astros play four games at Anaheim after they complete their four game series in Arlington. Houston is 4-1 against the Angels so far this season. 

Seattle Mariners
Record: 39-55, trail Houston by 20 games
Record vs Houston: 1-9
53: players used by the Mariners, the most in baseball history prior to the all-star game
.091: winning percentage when held to four or fewer runs (4-40)
.973: fielding percentage for the Mariners, worst in baseball

The Mariners won 13 of their first 15 games and their 13-2 mark was the best start in club history. Their hopes for a competitive vanished quickly as they won just 12 of their next 49 games and have been out of the division and playoff race ever since. Their season is essentially all about the home run, they hit a boatload of them and allow a comparably large number of them. They’ve hit 160 HR, allowed 155, both figures rank second in baseball.