Inside the AL West race

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Texas Rangers and Oakland A's will see each other this weekend.

Before that, they have very different tasks.

The Rangers have to fight off baseball's best story, the Pittsburgh Pirates, in a series with three marquee pitching matchups.

Meanwhile, the A's are off Monday before facing the struggling Minnesota Twins at Target Field.

Here's how the start of the week sets up for the Rangers and A's:

Rangers: (81-61, .570, 2nd Place, 1 1/2 GB)

Next up: Monday-Wednesday, vs. Pittsburgh, Rangers Ballpark

Oppenents' record: The Pirates are 81-61, 1 1/2 games back in the NL Central

The latest: The Rangers salvaged a 4-3 victory Sunday against the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim, winning once again with their fifth starter -- this time Nick Tepesch -- taking the mound. The bullpen against was masterful as Alexi Ogando, Neal Cotts, Tanner Scheppers and Joe Nathan helped to hold a 4-3 lead.

Forecast: The Rangers have a difficult task in front of them, but should be able to take two out of three games from the Pirates to stay within striking distance of the A's heading into this weekend's showdown between Texas and Oakland in Arlington. Yu Darvish and Matt Garza are due to pitch well and Tuesday starter Martin Perez has pitched brilliantly, winning six straight starts. The Pirates have lost four games in a row, matching their longest losing streak of the season.

Athletics: (83-60, .580, 1st Place)

Next up: Tuesday-Thursday, at Minnesota, Target Field

Oppenents' record: The Twins are 61-80, 20 games back in the AL Central

The latest: The A's lost Thursday to Houston and fell behind early Friday before steamrolling the Astros for three straight victories to overtake the Rangers for first place in the division. Oakland is playing great baseball, going 8-2 on a homestand that included a series win over the Rangers. The A's are season-best 23 games over .500.

Forecast: The A's facing the same three starting pitcher the Rangers saw when Minnesota came to Arlington weekend before last. Liam Hendriks, Mike Pelfrey and Kevin Correia all pitched well in the series as the Twins stunned the Rangers winning two out of three games. Hendriks and Correia each won their starts. Look for Minnesota to pull off a stunner and win the series against Oakland, which would mean the A's would take a 1/2 game lead into Friday's game against the Rangers.