OAKLAND, CA - MAY 7: Manager Ron Washington #38 of the Texas Rangers looks on during a Major League Baseball game against the Oakland Athletics at the Oakland Coliseum May 7, 2009 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
"We've got to win two out of three, that's for sure," Washington said.
Then came the obvious follow-up: Is that enough?
"Probably not," he conceded.
An extended and untimely offensive slump that has led to just one run during a four-game losing streak has put the Rangers in a desperate situation. They have 17 games left and face their largest deficit for a playoff spot all season.
"We know we're running out of chances," Ian Kinsler said. "Everyone in here knows that. It's no secret."
What was always going to be an important September series this weekend against the Angels has become even more critical for the Rangers, who hope to make their first playoff appearance in 10 years.
Going into their much-needed day off Thursday, the Rangers (80-65) trailed Los Angeles by six games in the division and Boston by 6½ in the AL wild-card race. The Angels and Red Sox played the finale of a three-game series at Fenway Park on Thursday night.
"We've made it tough on ourselves, but we can't give up," Marlon Byrd said. "We've got to come out and see what we can do, see if we can put a long string together. See if we can get a miracle."
When trying to inspire his teammates in the clubhouse after the latest loss Wednesday night, Byrd reminded them of the 2002 Oakland Athletics and 2007 Colorado Rockies.
Colorado had to win 21 of its last 22 games two seasons ago to earn the NL wild card, then made it to the World Series. A 20-game winning streak into early September boosted Oakland to the 2002 AL West title.
Even if the Angels lose nine of their remaining 17 games, Texas would have to go 14-3 just to tie for the division lead and force a one-game tiebreaker playoff. If the Angels slumped to 5-12 over the closing stretch, the Rangers would still have to go at least 11-6.
Before they can win any games, the Rangers have to start scoring runs again.
Texas has only one run the past 37 innings, and is 0 for 22 with runners in scoring position since the run came on a solo home run by David Murphy in a 6-1 loss to Oakland on Tuesday night. It is the first time since the Rangers moved to Texas in 1972 that they have scored only once over a four-game span.
They are 1-5 on this homestand, swept in a three-games series by last-place Oakland this week while the Angels were also losing three straight games. It was the first time the Rangers were swept at home since the Angels won three in a row at Rangers Ballpark last September.
The Rangers managed only Byrd's bloop single in a 4-0 loss to Oakland against rookie right-hander Trevor Cahill and a pair of relievers Wednesday night. It was the third time they have been one-hit this season, and their 10th shutout came after hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo held a closed-door pregame meeting with all the offensive players.
There are seven games left against the Angels, the three this weekend and four more in Los Angeles the last week of the regular season.
Texas is 9-3 against the Angels this season, including 5-1 in Arlington. But Washington knows things will be more difficult in September.
"They're in that mode right now going down the stretch. They've been there before," Washington said. "They will definitely come up here with a different attitude than they had earlier games we played them. ... They're not coming up in here to fall off the wagon."
The Angels have won the AL West four of the last five seasons. Texas still needs another victory to ensure only its second non-losing season since the franchise's only three division titles from 1996-99.
All-Stars Michael Young (strained left hamstring) and Josh Hamilton (pinched nerve in back) have both missed 12 games over the past two weeks.
While Hamilton is taking a couple of days off from baseball activity because of tightness in his right glute, Young hopes to play against the Angels after one at-bat Tuesday in an abbreviated comeback attempt.
"It's a big series. We have to find a way to win games right now," said Young, the longest-tenured Rangers in his ninth season. "We haven't given up anything. We are a good team and we expect to go out and win."