The Los Angeles Angels will begin a crucial series versus the Texas Rangers in Anaheim on Tuesday. Both teams have plenty to play for, but pundits and fans alike envisioned a slightly different scenario.
The Angels are playing for some semblance of a playoff pulse as they trail the Baltimore Orioles by three games in the race for the final American League Wild Card spot. Meanwhile, the Rangers are trying to fend off the screaming-hot Oakland Athletics, who trail Texas by only three games in the American League West division.
When the season began, a mid-September series between the two A.L. West rivals appeared destined to determine which of the two would win the division. It’s still an incredibly important series for both clubs, but the context is less about gaining the upper hand against the other than it is about keeping pace with other contenders.
The Angels are in third place and 7.5 games behind the Rangers in the West. Barring a miracle run, the Halos are unlikely to catch Texas or the surging second-place Oakland Athletics.
Los Angeles will look to ace Jered Weaver to start the series on the right foot. Weaver is 1-1 against Texas this season, looking vastly different in each start against the Rangers. On May 13, Weaver gave up eight runs in 3.1 innings and was quickly pulled from the game. Weaver later pitched seven solid innings and gave up only one run against the Rangers on July 17. Weaver is 2-3 over his last 6 starts, which is worrying for Los Angeles. But on the bright side, no other pitcher on the club is as reliable in a pinch as Weaver.
Meanwhile, the Angel offense will have to take it to the next level if they want to keep Weaver in it against the Rangers’ potent lineup. Texas will send Ryan Dempster to the mound to duel the Halo ace. Dempster was solid in his latest outing against the Cleveland Indians (7.0 IP, 2 ER), but the Angels roughed him up the last time they met (4.2 IP, 8 ER). The Angels will hope for a repeat performance to create some momentum for the rest of the series and, they hope, the season. They’re going to need it as the season draws ever closer to its end.