A’s series could be Rangers’ last chance for AL West title
The top two teams in the American League West play their final head-to-head games of the season this weekend as the A’s travel to Texas for a three-game set against the Rangers. Two weeks ago, the Rangers held a two game lead in the division, but since then they have gone 3-9 and lost series to the Twins, A’s (in Oakland), Angels and Pirates, the last of whom swept them in Arlington earlier this week. The A’s have gone 10-3 over the same stretch, knocking the Rangers 3 1/2 games back in the division. With just 14 games left in the season after this weekend’s series and the A’s having a softer remaining schedule (they face all sub-.500 teams while the Rangers follow this weekend’s set with four in Tampa Bay and three in Kansas City), this could be Texas’ last chance to stay in the race for the division, and it may take a sweep of the A’s to do it.
The Rangers’ primary shortcoming over the last two weeks has been their inability to score. Over their last 12 games, Texas has scored just 3.2 runs per game and hasn’t scored more than five runs in any of those dozen games. Playing at home hasn’t helped, as the offense has plated only 2.5 runs per game in the team’s six home games during that stretch. In fact, on the season as a whole, the Rangers have actually scored less often in their hitting-friendly home ballpark than they have on the road. By way of comparison, Oakland has scored seven or more runs five times in its last eight games and has hit .310/.364/.529 as a team thus far in September.
The pitching matchups for this weekend pit A’s rookie Dan Straily (3-0, 1.50 ERA in his last three starts, including a win over the Rangers) against Derek Holland on Friday night, Bartolo Colon against Yu Darvish on Saturday and Jarrod Parker (9-0, 2.61 ERA in his last 19 starts including two wins in three starts against Texas) against Rangers rookie Martin Perez (who recorded the Rangers’ only victory in Oakland last week) on Sunday. Due in part to poor run support, neither Holland nor Darvish has won a game since Aug. 12.
Also worth noting, while Texas leads the AL wild-card race, they are just three games up on the third-place Yankees. If the Rangers don’t perform well this weekend, they may have to turn their attention from the division to simply hanging on to that wild-card spot.