ARLINGTON -- A third consecutive American League West title is just dangling out there for the Texas Rangers to grab and has been for some time.
Since, say, April 9, the first of their 174 consecutive days in first place.
"It's supposed to be clinched by now, right?" shortstop Elvis Andrus said.
The Rangers did nothing to move closer to it Friday night, and the season-ending series at second-place Oakland is looking more and more like it will decide the division winner.
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Ryan Dempster allowed four runs in 5 2/3 innings, and Jered Weaver allowed only two runs in seven innings as Anaheim opened a three-game series at Rangers Ballpark with a 7-4 victory.
The Rangers' magic number to clinch the West remained at three, and their lead in the standings fell to three games with five to play after second-place Oakland beat Seattle 8-2 in a late game.
The Rangers still can clinch the division this weekend -- with any combination of three Rangers wins and A's losses -- but their celebration might be on hold until early next week in the Bay Area.
"There's still games to be played," second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "We're still in a very good position.
"We come to the field that day to win that day. We're not busy looking ahead. We're not looking behind us at games that could have been. We're focused on tomorrow."
Dempster lost to the Angels for the second time since he was dealt to the Rangers at the July 31 trade deadline. Five of the seven hits he allowed were for extra bases, including a homer by rookie Mike Trout to start the game.
Chris Iannetta homered in the third, and the struggling Mark Trumbo had a pair of RBI doubles to account for the runs against Dempster. Trout followed Iannetta's homer with a triple but was thrown out trying to score on an infield grounder.
"The solo homers don't beat you," said Dempster, who has an 11.20 ERA in three starts against the Angels. "But I need to make better pitches with two outs. Trumbo hit two doubles, and they scored runs. That was the difference in the ballgame, really."
The Rangers were down only 4-1 when Dempster left, but the bullpen couldn't keep the Angels down. Robbie Ross allowed three runs in the seventh, which minimized the impact of Nelson Cruz's solo homer off Jered Weaver (20-4) in the bottom half.
Beltre brought the Rangers within three runs in the eighth with his 36th homer, a two-run shot that gave him 100 RBIs on the season. Cruz, though, was thrown out at second after a long single to end the inning.
Cruz was slow to get up after his head banged into Erick Aybar's leg and after a hard tag in the ribs. But he stayed in the game and should be in the lineup today as the Rangers get another chance to move toward their third straight AL West crown.
It's been a slower-than-expected path for the team with the league's best record and a team that still can set a club record for victories in a season by winning its final five games.
"One of the reasons is how good Oakland is playing," Andrus said. "We have to take care of business tomorrow and try to win the series. That will make things easier on us."
Said manager Ron Washington: "I don't think that's anything we're thinking about. We go out there and play and win ballgames. If you win ballgames, that definitely takes care of itself."
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760