Difference in West is handling A's, M's

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Breaking down the AL West race is not rocket science. Why do the Texas Rangers enjoy a five-game lead over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim heading into the final six games of the season?

Simple. The Rangers have thrashed the bottom two teams in the division, the Oakland A's, and tonight's opponent, the Seattle Mariners. The Angels, who open a series against the A's in Anaheim tonight, have not. Texas' magic number entering tonight's first game of this weekend series is two. If trends hold, the Rangers could be popping champagne in about six hours or so.

The Rangers are 12-4 this season against the Mariners; the Angels are 7-9 against Oakland. Overall, Texas is 25-10 combined against the A's and M's while the Angels are 19-16. That's a six-game difference. Meanwhile, the Rangers and Angels are practically even in their season series with the Rangers having won nine of 16 meetings.

"We respect anyone in big-league uniform," Rangers captain Michael Young said. "Anyone you face in the West you are going to see good pitching. It's [strong record against Oakland and Seattle] a credit to our pitching staff. They've made big pitches, limited the big inning and kept us in games. I really think it's a credit to our pitchers."

"In trying to accomplish to win your division you have to play well in your division," manager Ron Washington said. "Fortunately, this year we've played very well in our division. Oakland has played us tough. Yes, we've some ballgames against them. I think Seattle plays us awful tough. Yes, we've some ballgames against them, but it certainly hasn't been where you dominated somebody. We played a lot of one-run games in Seattle."