2013 Preview: The American League West

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For the past few days we’ve been previewing the 2013 season. Here, in handy one-stop-shopping form, is our package of previews from the American League West.

For the second straight year the Los Angeles Angels have signed the biggest slugger on the free agent market. This time, however, we feel like it’s going to finally work.  Josh Hamilton, Albert Pujols, Mike Trout, and Mark Trumbo form a potent core. Jered Weaver is an ace. There may be some issues with the rest of the pitching staff, but we’re liking the Angels’ chances.

Not to sell the Rangers short. They’re sort of retrenching this year, transitioning off of Josh Hamilton and preparing to integrate youngsters Jurickson Profar and Mike Olt into the lineup either late this year or as 2014 kicks off, but they’re still an insanely talented team that, for whatever reason, people always want to sleep on until, once again, they’re in the playoffs.

How did the A’s do it last year? We have no idea. But they’re trying to do it again this year and, as always, the proceedings will be an exercise in plate-spinning, smoke, mirrors and unexpectedly good performances from guys everyone else gave up on at some point.

The Mariners are on the right track, but still a work in progress.

American League newcomers the Houston Astros will pop champagne corks if they don’t lose 100 games. And given how thoroughly they’ve torn down in order to rebuild, it will be an accomplishment worth celebrating if it does indeed come to pass.

Below are our team-by-team previews of the AL West, followed by our HBT Extra feature on the division. Enjoy!

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Clayton Kershaw struggles with control, walks six Marlins

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Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw entered Wednesday night’s start against the Marlins without having issued a walk in his previous three starts. In fact, his last walk came on April 3 when he issued a free pass to Paul Goldschmidt with the bases empty and two outs in the bottom of the first inning. All told, Kershaw was on a streak of 26 walk-less innings before he took the mound at home to take on the Marlins.

Kershaw started off Wednesday in character, striking out the side in the first inning. He issued a walk in a tough second inning, but escaped without allowing a run. Kershaw walked two more in the third and again danced out of danger. In the fourth, Kershaw walked Lewis Brinson to load the bases with no outs and — you guessed it — didn’t end up allowing a run. His errant control finally came back to bite him in the fifth when Kershaw issued back-to-back two-out walks, then served up a three-run home run to Miguel Rojas down the left field line. His night was done when he completed the inning. Five innings, three runs, five hits, six walks, seven strikeouts, 112 pitches.

The six walks Kershaw issued over five innings marked his first six-walk outing since April 7, 2010 when he issued six free passes to the Pirates in 4 2/3 innings. The only other time he walked as many was on August 3, 2009 against the Brewers in a four-plus inning outing. Kershaw hasn’t even walked five batters in an outing recently — the last time was September 23, 2012 against the Reds.