The plan for the Texas Rangers over the next 16 days should be simple: just win.
The Rangers will finish off the 2012 campaign and push toward a third-straight AL West championship against divisional opponents. The Oakland Athletics sit just three games behind the Rangers while the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are down 7 1/2 games.
There is no doubt the last 2 1/2 weeks of the season will be grueling. Just consider the month of September. All three teams have played 15 games since Sept. 1. The Rangers have gone 9-6, with the A's and Angels each going 10-5.
It doesn't get much closer than that.
Each club could go back and look at some of the losses and point to things and say, "We could have done this differently." At this point, it's about moving on from those games and focusing on what's left.
From this point on, it's about the Rangers winning each series, not necessarily every game. That would be nice, but reality is the Angels and A's are playing solid baseball, too. So, it comes down to winning each series.
"That's what you want to keep doing," manager Ron Washington recently said. "I'll keep taking two out of three and moving forward."
If the Rangers do win the remaining five series, including two each with LAA and Oakland, they would finish the season on an 11-5 run. Even the final series with the Seattle Mariners won't be a walk in the park.
They key is winning both series against the Angels and A's. If the Rangers can do that, they will certainly wrap up the division.
The Angels appear to have the easier schedule with two series against the Mariners remaining. In addition to the Rangers, LAA will also host the Chicago White Sox.
Oakland, just like Texas, is facing some of the toughest teams in the American League during the last couple weeks. In addition to the Rangers twice, the A's face the Detroit Tigers and the New York Yankees.
It won't be easy for Texas, Oakland, or LAA the remainder of the 2012 regular-season schedule, but the Rangers are in a better position to have a direct effect on the outcome of the division that the others.
John Ingle is a graduate of the Midwestern State University Mass Communication program with an emphasis in journalism. He's been a Texas Rangers fan when he met Bump Wills and Buddy Bell when he was in elementary school in Arlington, Texas. Follow him on Twitter @inglejohn1973.
- Sports & Recreation