There's still more than a month of baseball to go in the regular season, but the Rangers are on the precipice of a divisional title all the same.
They are six games up on the Angels with 39 games left to play, including two more with the Angels in Anaheim this week. Those two games are against the hottest pitcher in baseball and one of the best starters in the American League over the course of the entire season. They represent the last, best chance for the Angels to make a race of things.
An eight game lead with 37 left to play, the spot the Angels will be in if things don't go their way, is very hard to overcome. It can happen, of course, but it isn't a very good bet unless you have advance knowledge that Michael Young, C.J. Wilson and Neftali Feliz are all going to be kidnapped. Even then, the Rangers could probably be seven games better than the Angels.
Four games is a lot different. That's two big weeks against two average ones, something that is definitely possible for these two teams.
That's mathematics, now comes the bigger picture. Beating Ervin Santana and Jered Weaver, the two standout pitchers referenced up top, does even more than hand the Rangers a bigger edge. It takes away two wins that the Angels expect to have based on the pitchers that are on the mound.
The only chance that the Angels have to catch the Rangers relies on getting superhuman performances from Santana, Weaver and Dan Haren. Winning 60 percent of their remaining games, i.e. the ones started by those three, is the very minimum that they can do to come back and take the division.The rest of the team is what it is, so any time one of those three doesn't come up big it will hurt.
Even if the Rangers lose both of these games, they'll be heavy favorites to hold onto the AL West the rest of the way. Win them, though, and there will be breathing room enough to start thinking about resting aching bodies and setting up playoff rotations.
There are worse places to be on Aug. 17.