The Major League Baseball pennant races are heating up with the final month of the regular season coming up. In the American League West, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the Oakland Athletics are in a close-knit race, with the Settle Mariners right in the mix as well.
The Angels lead the A’s by one game after a win in Oakland on Sunday Night Baseball. The two teams entered the game with identical records of 76-52, before Los Angeles salvaged a sweep and won the game 9-4. The two best teams will square off in two more series, including a four-game series in Los Angeles starting later this week. Oakland is 19-12 when facing the Angels since last season, including 8-4 in 2014.
The Mariners, who signed second baseman Robinson Cano to a boatload of money in the offseason, sit six games behind the Angels in the AL West and hold the second wild card spot in the AL, leading the Detroit Tigers by a game. The ace of the Seattle pitching staff is Felix Hernández, who is one of baseball’s best pitchers, will keep Seattle in the thick of playoff contention. The Mariners won 71 games in 2013, and just got win number 71 in 2014 with 33 games remaining.
Oakland has been the best team in baseball for the majority of this season. The turning point of the season for Oakland came at the July 31st trade deadline when it traded outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to the Boston Red Sox for starting pitcher Jon Lester and outfielder Johnny Gomes. Oakland sat 25 games above .500 up until the trade, but have not played that way in August thus far. Oakland is just 10-12 since trading Cespedes at the deadline. The Athletics have had 14 consecutive winning months and now that streak is in jeopardy. Since the trade, Oakland’s runs scored per game have dropped by five runs. Lester has a 3-1 record with a 2.93 ERA since joining the A’s, but the starting pitching staff as a whole has had an ERA over five since the trade. General Manager Billy Beane was gearing up for an October run that would result in bringing a title home to Oakland for the first time since 1989 and surely didn’t expect this to happen. The A’s still lead the MLB in runs and walks, with the second fewest strikeouts.
The Angels have played pretty well since the start of August, with a record of 13-9. After a shaky start to the season, Los Angeles righted the ship and now have first place in the AL West all to themselves. The big x-factor for the Angels is young superstar Mike Trout who is arguably the best player in all of baseball. The guy can do it all, hitting .288 with 29 homeruns, 91 RBIs and 87runsscifed, on top of making sensational plays in the field. Another big reason the Angels are in first is the play of first baseman Albert Pujols, who played in just 99 games in 2013 due to a foot injury. He has missed two games this season and has shown glimpses of the monster power hitter we all know him as. He is batting .274, with 23 homeruns, 78 RBIs and a .331 on-base percentage. Many have already tried writing Pujols off, but that talk should slow its roll. The Angels are looking for the big payoff most people were expecting after spending crazy amounts of money over the past couple years in free agency.
This division race is arguably the best in baseball at the moment. Can the Angels maintain and add to their lead? Can the A’s snap out of this month-long slump and regain control of the division? Will Seattle be able to finish the year strong and make its way into the playoffs for the first time since 2001? The final 33 games will answer all these questions.