What might determine if the Boston Red Sox can climb into first place in their division and if the Texas Rangers hang onto a lead in theirs is how well the teams perform against each other.
In a potential playoff preview, the Red Sox and Rangers will play seven times over the next two weeks, beginning with Monday night's game in Arlington.
Since sharing first place in the AL East with New York on Aug. 15, Boston (77-49) has stayed a half-game behind the Yankees each of the past six days despite recovering nicely from a difficult stretch. After losing five of seven, the Red Sox opened their road trip by winning three of four against Kansas City.
Boston batted .302 in the series despite injuries to Kevin Youkilis (back), David Ortiz (heel) and J.D. Drew (shoulder). Jacoby Ellsbury has also missed two games with a bruised back after being hit by a pitch Friday.
Ellsbury's replacement, Darnell McDonald , homered and had three hits in a 6-1 victory Sunday.
"It's nice to know when those guys are out you have other guys to fill in and do a good job," pitcher Jon Lester said. "That's big for us, a confidence-booster definitely. Guys that filled in those spots did a good job."
Ellsbury and Ortiz might return during this series, but Boston could be more concerned about its pitching during the matchup between two of the best hitting teams in the majors.
The Rangers (73-55) outscored the Red Sox 26-11 and hit 11 homers during a three-game sweep in Arlington to open this season. That got Texas rolling toward a 9-1 start while Boston dropped its first six games.
Texas has won nine of 11 in the series and 10 of 12 at home against the Red Sox. To add to that dominance, however, the Rangers might need to re-ignite their offense.
They scored 10 runs and batted .194 while dropping three of four to end a 10-game road trip, a stretch that cut their AL West lead over Los Angeles from seven games to four. Texas was shut out for the sixth time this season and first time in nearly a month Sunday, managing four hits in a 10-0 defeat to Chicago.
The Rangers had batted .325 and outscored opponents 42-18 while winning the first six games of their trek, including three victories against the Angels.
"It's not going to knock us down just because they beat us 10-0," manager Ron Washington told the team's website. "You've got to show back up. And good teams do. We're a good team, we'll show up on (Monday)."
Washington is probably hoping the same C.J. Wilson from the road trip will show up as well. The left-hander was 2-0 with a 1.38 ERA in his two starts, allowing two runs - one earned - over seven innings in a 4-3 win over Los Angeles on Wednesday.
Wilson (12-5, 3.20 ERA) is 3-0 with a 1.35 ERA in four career starts against Boston. He gave up four runs - two earned - and six hits over 5 2-3 innings on opening day and did not get a decision in a 9-5 win.
The Red Sox, meanwhile, will try to help Erik Bedard (4-8, 3.44) to his first win in seven starts since June 15 and first in four outings since being acquired from Seattle. The left-hander has allowed three runs or fewer in each of his three starts for Boston, striking out 17 and walking just four.
He suffered his only loss over that span Tuesday, giving up three runs - one earned - over six innings of a 6-2 defeat to Tampa Bay.
Bedard is winless in his last seven starts against Texas, and he suffered the loss in his last visit to Arlington, a 6-4 defeat for the Mariners on April 4.