No divisional "race" is closer than 5 games in the season's last week and even the Wild Card is producing nothing more dramatic than a two-game edge.
With another Angels' loss Monday the Rangers inched closer to a second consecutive AL West title that most of us have said was a done deal since mid-August. Magic number down to 5. Lead at 5 with only nine games remaining. To lose the West outright at this point Texas would have to go 3-6 against the A's, Mariners and Angels and Anaheim would have to go 9-0. Going 4-5 with the Angels running the table would force a one-game playoff for the title.
No, because of the crappy quality of the A's and Mariners, stranger things have not happened.
Good news: I see the Rangers clinching this thing at home this weekend against the Mariners, rendering the three-game finale in Anaheim next week null and void.
Unless, of course, you care about the real race we should be fixated upon ...[jump]
And that is the race to avoid the Yankees.
The Rangers have a lot to play for down the stretch. If they win seven of their final nine they will match the franchise record of 95 wins. In doing so, they'd likely avoid New York in the first round of the playoffs. Not that the Rangers fear the Yankees -- see 2010 -- but playing them in the ALCS is probably the preferred route back to the World Series.
The Yankees will win the East with the AL's best record, and the Wild Card -- either the Red Sox or Rays -- will also come from that division. Since divisional foes can't play in the first round, it means the Yankees would instead draw the divisional winner with the worst record and the second-best record among division winners would get the Wild Card team.
Right now that would mean Yankees-Rangers and Tigers-Red Sox in the first round.
But that could easily change, because Texas trails Detroit by only one game for the AL's second-best record. The Tigers last week wrapped up their division and don't have near the motivation as the Rangers. In other words, at this point Rangers fans should be more concerned with the Tigers than the Angels.
After all, what sounds more appealing in the ALDS: Game 1 at Yankee Stadium against New York? Or Game 1 at Rangers Ballpark against Boston?