It wasn't long ago that the Texas Rangers seemed to have the American League West division locked up.
I'll admit, I was as guilty as anyone in assuming Texas was well on its way to a second straight AL West crown.
It still might happen. It just won't be as easy as I once thought.
Ever since Anaheim first baseman Mark Trumbo hit a game-winning walkoff home run against the Rangers on Aug. 18, the two teams have gone in opposite directions. Trumbo's season-saving blast pulled the Angels within six games of the Rangers.
Baseball is a contagious game of momentum and streaks. Since Trumbo's homer, the Angels have won six straight games. Texas has lost three in a row and five of its last six.
What could have been an eight-game lead turned into six on Aug. 18. Now, it's only two games. Funny how one swing of the bat can swing the momentum of a division race so quickly.
Naturally, the Rangers and Angels have a three-game series this weekend in Arlington. It's a massive showdown that could alter the landscape of the AL West race in the coming weeks. No splits in a three-game series. To date, this is easily the Rangers' most significant series of the season.
Texas has been playing uninspiring baseball of late. After taking one game from the Red Sox in Arlington, Texas lost three in a row by the following scores: 11-5, 13-2, 6-0. It's been rough. The starting pitching seems gassed. The bats have been kept quiet.
Thursday night detailed much of the Rangers' struggles lately. Texas bats couldn't muster any runs off Andrew Miller. All due respect to the guy, that's just not good. Miller's 6-1 record is only a reflection of his run support and nothing more. He has nearly as many walks (32) as strikeouts (39), to go along with an ERA of 4.42 this season. This is far from an elite pitcher, and the Rangers were shut out against the guy.
Hopefully, the bats wake up because this weekend's opposing pitchers are a step or two above what Miller has to offer. Dan Haren is pitching tonight, and Angels manager Mike Scioscia recently confirmed that Ervin Santana (Saturday) and Jered Weaver (Sunday) will pitch on three days rest due to the magnitude of the series. Sanatana and Weaver have never pitched on three days rest in their MLB careers.
That should tell you everything you need to know about the importance of this series. The Rangers will trot out Derek Holland tonight, C.J. Wilson on Saturday and Colby Lewis on Sunday.
The Rangers need standout performances from most or all of them, or else this division race is going to get more interesting than it needs to be.