The Texas Rangers still have work left to wrap up their third straight AL West title, but anything other than an epic collapse should ensure they're at least part of the postseason.
The Los Angeles Angels wish they could be so certain about their October fate.
A wild-card berth looks to be the Angels' likeliest path to the playoffs, and they should feel good about their chances Tuesday night with Jered Weaver on the hill for the opener of this critical three-game set against the visiting Rangers.
Texas (87-59) has a three-game lead atop the West over Oakland and is 7 1/2 games up on the Angels (80-67), but its closest pursuers will have the opportunity to make that race interesting. Of the Rangers' 16 remaining games, six are against Los Angeles and seven are against Oakland."That's where you win, when you can run away in your division, or do well in your division," manager Ron Washington said after Texas took two of three from Seattle over the weekend, its eighth series win in its last nine. "I'll take our best game against any one of those teams' best game."
But with two wild-card slots available, Texas can likely play mediocre baseball down the stretch and still find itself in the postseason. That's a luxury the Angels, who took two of three in Kansas City over the weekend, can't afford.
"Forget winning series. We're talking about winning every pitch," manager Mike Scioscia said. "That's where we are. The only thing we control is how we play. We need to bring it for the last 15 games."
Three games behind Baltimore for the second wild-card berth, Los Angeles begins its final homestand of the season Tuesday before playing its final six on the road. And while facing a Texas team leading the majors in runs per game (5.11), average (.276) and slugging percentage (.449) might not seem ideal, Weaver (17-4, 2.74 ERA) has had the Rangers' number in Anaheim.
Weaver has had his share of issues in Arlington, but the Angels have won the right-hander's last 10 home starts against Texas as he's compiled a 1.72 ERA.
He returned Thursday against Oakland after missing a start due to biceps tendinitis and looked anything but rusty. Weaver held the A's to two hits over seven innings and struck out nine in a 6-0 win.
"He's in the conversation with anyone you want to talk about in our league as far as being the Cy Young ," Scioscia told the Angels' official website. "It'll probably hinge on how he finishes down the stretch."
Weaver has allowed three runs over 13 1-3 innings in his last two starts versus Texas after yielding eight in his first.
Ryan Dempster (6-1, 4.11) knows all about having a poor outing in this series. The right-hander's introduction to the AL came Aug. 2 when he allowed eight runs in 4 2-3 innings against Los Angeles, but he's now riding a five-start winning streak in which he's posted a 1.91 ERA."I just try to do my job the same way, try to execute and make as many pitches as possible," Dempster said after holding Cleveland to two runs over seven innings in a 5-2 win Wednesday.
Texas' offense has certainly made Dempster feel welcome, providing him with 7.69 runs of support per nine innings since he came over from the Cubs - the majors' second-most generous amount.
Rangers right fielder Nelson Cruz has gone 11 games without a homer, but perhaps he can end that drought against the Angels. He's hitting .351 with nine homers in the series' last 19 games, though he's just 12 for 56 (.214) with one homer and 18 strikeouts versus Weaver.
For Dempster and the Rangers, it starts with slowing down Mike Trout . The rookie leadoff hitter and MVP contender is hitting .392 with four homers, 15 RBIs and a 1.237 OPS as the Angels lead the season series 7-6.
|September 13, 2012||Mike Olt||Day-to-Day||Plantar fasciitis, right foot|
|September 13, 2012||Josh Hamilton||Day-to-Day||Sore left knee|
|September 12, 2012||Adrian Beltre||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained left shoulder|
|September 09, 2012||Roy Oswalt||Day-to-Day||Left game - sore right elbow|
|September 02, 2012||Ian Kinsler||Day-to-Day||Lower back stiffness|
|August 31, 2012||Tyler Tufts||15-Day DL||Surgery, perforated bowel|
|Los Angeles Angels|
|August 30, 2012||Howie Kendrick||Day-to-Day||Left game - sore right knee|
|August 22, 2012||Albert Pujols||Day-to-Day||Left game - right calf tightness|
|August 19, 2012||Peter Bourjos||15-Day DL||Sore right wrist|
|August 19, 2012||Peter Bourjos||15-Day DL||Sore right wrist|
|August 13, 2012||C.J. Wilson||Day-to-Day||Left game - bruised left hand|
|July 30, 2012||Mark Trumbo||Day-to-Day||Back spasms|
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- Jered Weaver spent a long stretch of his 100th career victory in the batting cage and the tunnel below Angel Stadium, playing catch to keep his arm warm while the Los Angeles Angels batted around in an eight-run fourth inning.
Weaver didn't lose his rhythm, and the Angels kept flowing toward a playoff berth.
Weaver pitched seven innings of six-hit ball in his 18th win of the season, Chris Iannetta had a two-run single and scored on a wild pitch during that crazy rally, and the Angels moved up in the AL postseason race with an 11-3 victory over the Texas Rangers on Tuesday night.
Weaver (18-4) gave up third-inning homers to Mike Napoli and Ian Kinsler , but got a huge cushion from his teammates to ease into a tie with Tampa Bay's David Price for the AL lead in wins. The ace right-hander, who has spent his entire career in Anaheim, matched his single-season high for victories and became just the sixth pitcher to win 100 games with the club.
"It's an honor to do it all in an Angels uniform," said Weaver, a Los Angeles-area native. "I wouldn't have it any other way. Hopefully these fans see 200 more, but I don't know. We'll see what happens."
What's happening on the scoreboards is more interesting to Weaver and his teammates at the moment.
Erick Aybar had three hits and scored two runs for the Angels (81-67), who moved within 3 1/2 games of wild card-leading Oakland with their 15th win in 20 games after the Athletics (84-63) lost at Detroit. Los Angeles also kept pressure on Baltimore, which sits in second place in the AL wild-card standings.
"We're at the point in the year when we just have to win," Iannetta said. "We need to find a way. Texas, Oakland, Baltimore, they're all in the drivers' seat, but we've been on a real good three-week stretch. We just have to keep working."
Los Angeles trimmed its deficit behind the AL West-leading Rangers (87-60) to 6 1/2 games, but the Angels are much more focused on making a late wild-card push - and with a few more innings like the fourth, they might have an outside shot.
Los Angeles sent 12 batters to the plate in the fourth while carving up three Texas pitchers, including starter Ryan Dempster , during its biggest rally in nearly two months.
"It felt like a rain delay out there," Weaver said. "But when runs are coming across the board, you can't complain too much."
With eight Angels scoring a run, they had no trouble producing offense in the absence of Albert Pujols , who missed the game to be with his wife and their newborn daughter. The Angels expect Pujols to be back in the lineup Wednesday.
Dempster (6-2) was charged with five runs and six hits in 3 1-3 innings, ending his five-start winning streak with his second rough outing against the Angels. The veteran has yielded 13 earned runs to Los Angeles and just 15 to the rest of the AL during his nine starts for Texas.
"It got out of control," Texas manager Ron Washington said. "We just couldn't get any outs. Dempster struggled from the beginning. It was a fight the whole time, and in that fourth inning, they just took the game away from us."
All-Star Josh Hamilton left in the fourth with sinus trouble that affected the slugger's vision, Washington said. Napoli had two hits in another big game against his former teammates, but Weaver and two relievers largely shut down the majors' most potent offense.
Kinsler ended an 0-for-11 skid with just his second homer in 17 games, but the Angels got rolling in the fourth. After Vernon Wells and Alberto Callaspo reached, Iannetta cracked a one-out single off the bottom of the right-field wall before Mike Trout walked to chase Dempster.
Tanner Scheppers then threw two pitches: He hit Aybar with the first to load the bases, and put the second into the backstop for a wild pitch. Iannetta made contact with Scheppers' leg on his slide, leaving Scheppers on the ground in agony while Napoli's throw hit home plate umpire Jim Wolf, allowing Trout to score on a throwing error.
Scheppers left with a bruised right knee, but the Angels didn't let up against Mark Lowe .
Aybar scored on Kendrys Morales ' single, a tapper that traveled about 15 feet up the third-base line. Wells and Callaspo then drove in runs before Mark Trumbo made his second out of the inning.
"It was strange and bizarre," Michael Young said. "There were definitely strange things that happened that inning, but the bottom line was that they had some good at-bats and found a way to score. It doesn't matter how it happened. They scored eight."
NOTES: Hamilton was replaced by Leonys Martin on defense in the bottom of the fourth. The major league leader with 42 homers walked and grounded out in his two at-bats. ... Weaver has never lost a decision to Texas at Angel Stadium, going 9-0. ... RHP Wilmer Font made his major league debut for Texas in the sixth, pitching a scoreless inning.