The Astros were running away with the American League West. The Mariners weren’t a real threat anymore, and defending champion Houston looked to be an match to the AL East juggernauts of the Red Sox and Yankees. That was then, though, and now, halfway through August, things are a little different for the West.
The Athletics leapfrogged the Mariners for one of the two AL wild card spots, but they haven’t stopped their: now, Oakland is just two games behind the Astros, as Houston has lost four in a row — and lost all of those games to the Mariners, who are just 2.5 back of the A’s for a wild card spot and now just 4.5 back of the Astros for the AL West crown.
With the Red Sox up in the East by 10 games and the Indians 12.5 up on the Twins, the AL West is giving us the only intriguing division race in the American League. The Mariners were eight games back of the Astros themselves before beginning their four-game series last Thursday, but that gap has narrowed, and the only reason they’re now 4.5 back is because they lost to the A’s on Monday night to kick off that series. Just 4.5 games separating three teams is nothing, and when you throw in that the third-place Mariners have a better win percentage than anyone vying for the NL West crown — the only other division where the standings are this close — and the stakes ratchet up that much more.
The Mariners are still just 16-20 since July began, so we might not have this kind of closeness all the way down the stretch. Then again, though, Seattle was 53-31 prior to July, so it’s not as if they haven’t shown an ability to win this year: they’re still hanging around in large part due to their early success. Maybe they don’t deserve to have all of those wins — their expected win-loss record, based on their run differential, pegs them as being a sub-.500 team — but those early wins are in the bank.
And it works both ways, too: Houston’s expected record has them with 81 wins, or, eight more than they possess. The Astros might be the better team, but they’ve underperformed, and the Mariners have overperformed. Just like you can’t take away the wins the Mariners already have, the Astros can’t get back the wins they were supposed to have. And by the time the season ends, it’s entirely possible that Seattle will be ahead of Houston in the standings because of it.
Will we see that happen? Will the A’s rise to the top of the West, and the Mariners outlast the Astros because of their opposing positions on the luck spectrum? I don’t know, and neither do you, and that’s what’s going to make what’s left of the 2018 season fun for all of us.
- It’s official: position players pitching isn’t fun anymore, because the Angels are involved. The Angels! One of the great holdouts of the position players pitching movement.
- Ronald Acuña hit not one leadoff homer on Monday, but two: one in each game of a doubleheader against the Marlins.
- The Nationals suffered their second walkoff loss in as many days, and manager Dave Martinez doesn’t have any answers to give.
- The Orioles traded Manny Machado, which helped to emphasize that they’ve got a shortstop problem.
- Here’s a story on just who David Bote, hitter of the ultimate grand slam that downed the Nats on Sunday, is.
- Of course the Blue Jays are holding Vladimir Guerrero Jr. down in the minors for service time purposes: Kris Bryant’s own journey to the majors was the blueprint for such a move.
- What happened to Matt Kemp? The feel-good rebound story has seen his production tank the past few weeks.
- Kenley Jansen had another heart issue last week, and this one required a trip to the hospital and an electric shock to get his heart back into rhythm.