The Astros are making life easier for AL West teams

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The New York Times’ Benjamin Hoffman looks at how the Astros moving to the AL West has made life easier for the A’s and Rangers and harder for the AL East teams who may be trying to nab a wild card spot. After noting how Texas and Oakland have fattened up on Houston, he says:

Unfortunately for the Yankees, and the other four teams in the A.L. East, their division has no weak link. The Toronto Blue Jays are in last place, but they had an 11-game winning streak until the Rays beat them Monday.

I hate the unbalanced schedule in the wild card era. Teams are competing for the same playoff spots against varied competition and that’s just unfair.

That said: it has been thus since they went back to the unbalanced schedule many, many years ago. And while there are no weak links in the AL East now, there were many years when the Rays were doormats and the Orioles and Blue Jays used the big spending of the Yankees and Red Sox as excuses for not competing. So yes, it stinks that the setup is this way, but it something that goes around and comes around.

 

Chris Archer threw behind Jose Bautista

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Rays starter Chris Archer threw his first pitch to Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista behind the slugger’s back with one out in the first inning of Sunday afternoon’s game in Toronto. Bautista and Archer then had a staredown. Home plate umpire Jim Wolf issued warnings to both teams. Bautista ultimately flied out to right field and he appeared to have a quick word with Archer on his way back to the dugout.

Archer could have been exacting revenge — euphemistically known as “protecting his teammate” — because Jays reliever Joe Biagini hit Rays outfielder Steven Souza in the seventh inning of Saturday’s game. Souza was forced to leave the game and underwent an X-ray, which came back negative. He was held out of Sunday’s lineup. Biagini’s pitch did not appear to be intentional.

The Jays won Sunday’s contest 3-1 with no further incident. The two clubs meet again in Tampa for a three-game series starting on May 5, so we’ll see if Sunday was the last of the bad blood between them.

Bryce Harper sets April record for runs scored

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With four runs scored during Sunday’s 23-5 drubbing of the Mets, Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper set a new April record for runs scored at 32, MLB.com’s Oliver Macklin reports. The record was previously held by Larry Walker, who scored 29 runs for the Rockies in April 1997.

Harper finished 2-for-4 with a pair of walks and a solo home run (off of Mets catcher Kevin Plawecki) on the afternoon. He’s now hitting .391/.509/.772 with nine home runs and 26 RBI on the year.