FILE - This Sept. 14, 2012 file photo shows Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher David Price throwing against the New York Yankees in the first inning of a baseball game at Yankee Stadium in New York. Price and 2011 winner Justin Verlander are among the finalists for this year's AL Cy Young Award, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012.(AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek, File)
As we've discussed today, the AL West race is likely set to come down to the six remaining games between the first-place Texas Rangers and second-place Oakland A's over the final month of the season.
But before that first series between the two teams begins on Monday in Oakland, both teams have some work to do, and the Rangers' assignment is much easier than the A's.
While the Rangers are hosting the lowly Minnesota Twins, who are clinging to second-to-last place in the AL Central and are without their only good hitter in Joe Mauer (concussion), the A's will be hosting one of the best teams in the American League in the Tampa Bay Rays.
The A's trot Jarrod Parker to the hill for Friday night's opener, but he'll have to outduel Tampa's David Price. On Saturday, the A's will throw rookie Sonny Gray, but he'll have to face Alex Cobb and his 2.87 ERA. Sunday, the Rays will face home-run magnet A.J. Griffin and will run out a TBA starter.
You'd have to think the odds say the Rays could easily win this series, and if they take two, and the Rangers sweep the Twins, you're talking about a five-game lead in the division heading into the three-game set in Oakland.
If the Rays were to somehow sweep the A's, which isn't likely but definitely possible, you're talking a six-game lead. Of course, the Rangers must take care of business but the Twins are in a really bad funk right now and are without whatever firepower they do have in Mauer.
The next three days will be huge for the last month, and that begins on Monday.