Rangers breathe easier, but race isn't over

Posted Thursday, Aug. 18, 2011  comments  Print Reprints
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ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Just to the south of the city that gave life to Mission: Impossible the TV series, Mission: Impossible the movie, two sequels and another that will hit theaters later this year, the Angels' quest for the American League West crown has taken on a title of its own.

No matter how the finale of the four-game series late Thursday against the Texas Rangers turned out, the Angels were facing Mission: Not Impossible but Pretty Tough.

Their offense is underperforming. The back end of their rotation is in shambles, and their bullpen has been a revolving door of late.

The best the Angels could have hoped for at the end of the series was to be only six games back in the West. A loss would have left them eight behind.

Both teams had 38 games remaining entering Thursday. If the Rangers were to just match their 90-62 record from last season's title run, the Angels would have had to go 26-12 to win the division.

That's not impossible, say the Rangers. Too many games are left this season for the defending AL champions to think they have the West won.

"The reality is that it's still August," left-hander C.J. Wilson said. "We're not going to take anything for granted."

The primary advantage the Angels have over the Rangers is in strength of schedule. The Rangers have six games remaining against Boston (74-48 entering Thursday) and Tampa Bay (66-56) over the next 2 1/2 weeks, and three with Cleveland (61-58) next month.

The toughest series facing the Angels -- aside from the six remaining against the Rangers -- are three home games against New York (74-47) and four at Toronto (63-60). They have six games remaining against Baltimore (47-74) and seven more against Seattle (53-69).

The Rangers looked like the superior team over the Angels, even though Ervin Santana and Jered Weaver helped even things up some. The Rangers had collected 43 hits in the first three games, including 10 against Santana on Wednesday, and had received better pitching and played better defense.

Though they have made a statement, the Rangers didn't enter looking to send a message to the Angels. Their only goal entering the series was to continue playing quality baseball.

"We didn't come into spring training to get to this series and think our season stops here," manager Ron Washington said. "No, no, no. This is just a four-game series that we wanted to win, just like they wanted to win.

"Everything from this point on is it. We've got it going on right now at the right time of the year. We're just here to play the best baseball we can, and that's against anybody. We just worry about us."

Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760

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