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Monday, September 16, 2013
A look inside the wild-card race

By Todd Wills

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Rangers can set their sights on the wild-card race now.

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The weekend ended with the Rangers for all intents and purposes dropping out of the American League West race after finishing the worst homestand in franchise history with a sixth straight loss Sunday.

The A's, with 13 games left on their schedule, hold an almost insurmountable 6 1/2 game lead in the division. We know Oakland trailed Texas by six games with nine to play last season and rallied to win the division, but the Rangers don't have the opportunity to play the division leader in the final three games of the regular-season like Oakland did.

It's all about the wild card now and the reeling Rangers will face two of the six teams that are right smack in the middle of what could be a historic finish in the AL -- Tampa Bay and Kansas City. The Rangers and Rays start Monday tied for the two wild-card spots with Cleveland only a half game behind them.

Here's how the start of the week sets up for the Rangers, A's and the other five wild-card contenders:

RANGERS: (81-67, .547, 2nd Place in AL West, 6 1/2 GB; tied for wild card)

Next up: Monday-Thursday, at Tampa Bay, Tropicana Field

Opponents' record: The Rays are 81-67, 9 1/2 games back in the AL East, tied for wild card

The latest: The Rangers haven't homered in six games, just the second time that's happened in 23 seasons. Their previous longest home run drought was eight games in August of 1990.

Forecast: The Rangers, based on having the better bullpen, should at worst split with Tampa Bay. But Texas is reeling on offense, so nothing's guaranteed.


ATHLETICS: (88-61, .591, 1st Place)

Next up: Monday-Wednesday, vs. Los Angeles Angels, O.com Coliseum

Opponents' record: The Angels are 72-77, 16 games back in the AL West

The latest: The A's have won five games in a row and 13 of 16 games. They've pretty much locked up the AL West title for the second straight year, passing the Rangers in September both seasons.

Forecast: Oakland has its work cut out for it Monday night as C.J. Wilson goes for his 17th victory. The Angels are 18-12 in Wilson's starts. The A's will win the series, taking two of three.


RAYS: (81-67, .547, tied for wild card lead with Texas)

Next up: Monday-Thursday, vs. Rangers, Tropicana Field

Opponents' record: The Rangers are 81-67

The latest: Rays rookie right fielder Wil Myers crushed a 440-foot home run oSunday in Minnesota, his 12th of the season. Myers is the front-runner for AL Rookie of the Year.

Forecast: See above. Rays will split with Rangers.


INDIANS: (81-68, .544, 1/2 game back in wild card race)

Next up: Monday-Wednesday, at Kansas City, Kauffman Stadium

Opponents' record: The Royals are 78-71

The latest: Lonnie Chisenhall is a on a roll for the Indians. He is batting .348 (8-for-23) for eight September games with three doubles, two home runs and five RBIs.

Forecast: The Royals will sweep the overachieving Indians and get themselves right in the thick of the wild-card race.


ORIOLES: (79-70, .530, 2 1/2 games back in wild-card race)

Next up: Tuesday-Thursday, at Boston, Fenway Park

Opponents' record: The Red Sox are 92-59.

The latest: Former Ranger Chris Davis slugged his 50th home run Friday night, snapping a 3-3 tie. The Orioles won the game 5-3, but have lost five of their last eight games.

Forecast: The Red Sox will win two out of three games from Baltimore, furthering damaging the Birds' playoff hopes.


YANKEES: (79-71, .527, 3 games back in wild-card race)

Next up: Tuesday-Thursday, at Toronto, Rogers Center

Opponents' record: The Blue Jays are 68-81

The latest: The Yankees may be without third baseman Alex Rodriguez to start the season. Rodriguez, playing while appealing a 211-game suspension, left Sunday's game against Boston due to tightness in his right calf. He has spent the last five games at DH.

Forecast: Tempted to predict that Toronto will win the series against the reeling Yankees, but we'll go with two out of three for the Bronx Bombers.


ROYALS: (78-71, .523, 3 1/2 games back in wild-card race)

Next up: Monday-Wednesday, vs. Cleveland, Kauffman Stadium

Opponents' record: The Indians are 81-68

The latest: Big Game James Shields won the series for the Royals last week when he beat the Indians, allowing four hits and two runs in eight-plus innings. Look for him to set the tone Monday night when he faces former Tampa Bay teammate Scott Kazmir.

Forecast: See above. The Royals will sweep the Indians to win the season series, 10 wins to 9.