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AL West Race Heating Up

All of a sudden, the Rangers look a threat while the A's are slumping.

All of a sudden, the Rangers look a threat while the A’s are slumping.

What a difference a week makes. Or, more specifically, what a difference nine days makes.

At the close of play on July 29, the Texas Rangers sat six games back of the Oakland Athletics in the AL West standings. Now, for the first time in nearly a month, the Rangers are within one game of the division leaders.

20130806_AL_WestThe two clubs’ fortunes have taken a turn over the past nine days. The A’s have dropped five of their last six, including a 3-1 loss to the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday night, while the Rangers have secured victory in eight of the last nine, including two of three against their Bay Area rivals. Having trailed for more than a month in the standings, the Rangers are on the verge of regaining the top spot.

Ron Washington’s club fought tooth and nail Tuesday to take an 8-3 win over the Los Angeles Angels. The game marked the first time since 1999 that the club managed to score as many as eight runs without the benefit of an extra-base hit. Six stolen bases aided the cause, while one run scored on a wild pitch and another on a fielding error. It’s this sort of performance the Rangers will need to turn to in the wake of the Nelson Cruz suspension. Cruz had led the team in home runs and RBIs.

The race for top spot out west could take an even more interesting turn Wednesday, with the Rangers able to take over first place with a win and an Oakland loss.

Oakland (64-48, 29-28 road) will get first stab at preventing that from happening. The A’s complete a short two-game visit to Cincinnati (62-51, 34-19 home) Wednesday afternoon (12:35 p.m. ET).

Bartolo Colon looks to stop the Oakland rot.

Bartolo Colon looks to stop the Oakland rot.

Bartolo Colon (14-3, 2.50 ERA) will take the mound for the A’s. The veteran right-hander has lost just one decision since May 9, and will give the club a good shot at putting the skids on this current slide.

Colon will be up against Homer Bailey (6-10, 3.55 ERA). Bailey recorded a win last time out (July 31), snapping a string of four straight losses. However, the righty fell to the A’s back on June 26, yielding four earned runs on six hits.

Full betting odds and trends for this matchup can be found here.

The Reds (-110) opened as a narrow favorite over the A’s (+100), but most sportsbooks now have the NL Central club at around -125.

The over/under opened at 7 ½. Both Oakland (54-55-3) and Cincinnati (53-56-4) have marginally favored the under this season. Two of the three meetings between the clubs this season, including Tuesday’s series opener, saw the total go under also, so that’s where the smart money lies.

If Oakland fails to get the better of Cincinnati, something that is far from the realms of the impossible, the Texas Rangers (64-50, 31-26 road) can take top spot (by way of tiebreaker) with a win over the Los Angeles Angels (51-61, 30-31 home) in Wednesday’s series finale (10:05 p.m. ET).

The Rangers will look to complete the sweep with Alexi Ogando (4-3, 3.26 ERA) on the mound. Ogando hasn’t picked up a win since May 15, but a good portion of that time has been spent in the minors.

The Angels will start Tommy Hanson (4-2, 5.29 ERA), another player that could do with a win. He’s failed to record a decision in his last four starts.

Texas Rangers vs. Los Angeles Angels odds for 8/7/13 are available here.

The Rangers look to win again without Nelson Cruz.

The Rangers look to win again without Nelson Cruz.

Bovada currently has the Rangers (-125) favored over the Angels (-105) on the moneyline and the over/under at 8. Texas (50-58-4) has favored the under this season while Los Angeles (60-49-3) has been a fan of the over. The head-to-head series has seen the total go over seven times and under four, meaning the smart money is on the over, particularly with those inflated ERAs taking the mound.

Come Thursday morning, the AL West standings could have a new leader for the first time in over a month. From there, could we be looking at an exciting final stretch that matches the exhilaration and interest of last season? With six games remaining between the Rangers and A’s, our instincts tells us we could.

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