The Texas Rangers would have to make up a double-digit deficit to win the AL West. The wild card is a more realistic possibility.
Their first visitor on an 11-game homestand could help them start making a run.
The Rangers kick off their longest homestand of the season on Monday with the first of four games against the AL-worst Seattle Mariners, losers of seven of their last eight.
There’s no bigger gap between a first-place team and its closest competitor than the one in the AL West. The Los Angeles Angels, owners of baseball’s best record, lead Texas (54-51) by 10 1/2 games. The Rangers still have 6 1/2 games - and three teams - between themselves and the wild card, but they also have the top offense in the majors on their side.
Texas had a chance to finish its nine-game, post All-Star break road trip with a winning record, but gave up six runs in the first two innings Sunday at Oakland en route to a 6-5 loss and a squandered opportunity for a three-game sweep.
“Of course you’re greedy,” shortstop Michael Young told the Rangers’ official Web site. “You want to sweep, but we came out today just trying to win this game. We just couldn’t push that last run across.”
Temperatures of 103 degrees are forecast in Arlington for the first two games against the Mariners (39-65). It’s also not supposed to cool down much for the rest of the homestand, which includes four games against the New York Yankees, one of the teams ahead of Texas in the wild-card chase.
“It’s definitely more comfortable playing at our ballpark,” said Young, who is batting .335 at home compared with a .264 mark on the road. “It will be nice to get out of a hotel. But as much as we know the schedule favors us, we’re still focused on the importance of playing hard every day.”
The Rangers’ four All-Stars - Young, Josh Hamilton, Milton Bradley and Ian Kinsler - will be honored Monday, the first chance the home fans have had to see them play since Josh Hamilton put on a power display in the Home Run Derby and Young drove in the winning run in the All-Star game.
Hamilton has continued hitting homers - he has three since the break - but he hit just .206 (7-for-34) on the road trip.
Felix Hernandez (7-6, 2.95 ERA) gets the ball for Seattle in the series opener. The right-hander is 0-2 in three outings versus Texas this season despite a 3.00 ERA.
He lasted six innings in his latest start, giving up three runs - two earned - to the Red Sox on Wednesday, a game Seattle eventually lost 6-3 in 12 innings.
Hernandez is 5-1 with a 1.98 ERA since May 31.
The Mariners had lost seven in a row heading into the finale of their three-game series Sunday in Toronto, but the first three hitters in the lineup - Ichiro Suzuki, Jose Vidro and Raul Ibanez - combined for seven hits and Seattle won 5-1.
“Unfortunately we’ve had quite a few bad streaks this year,” said starter Jarrod Washburn, who picked up his fifth win. “It’s nice to turn it around and get a W.”
Seattle will have to go through Scott Feldman (4-3, 4.80) as it tries for its 20th road win of the season. The right-hander has won three consecutive decisions over six starts since his last loss June 13. He went six innings on Monday, allowing one run and four hits in Texas’ 6-1 victory over the Chicago White Sox.