Texas within reach of AL West title in tight race

Associated Press Modified: September 17, 2012 at 3:03 pm •  Published: September 17, 2012
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ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington held out one hand, then the other.

Another division title is within reach for the two-time defending American League champions, and that is Washington's way of demonstrating how they have their destiny in their own hands.

As long as they can stay ahead of the surprising Oakland Athletics in the AL West.

Even with the AL's best record and being a season-high 28 games above .500, the Rangers (87-59) are still in a tight division race — with the young A's the closest chaser instead of the expected Los Angeles Angels.

"Everything is in front us," Washington said. "Oakland, everybody thought they were going to go away. They don't seem to be going away."

With 16 games left after their final off day of the regular season Monday, the Rangers lead the A's by three games. The Angels, who added slugger Albert Pujols and former Texas lefty C.J. Wilson last winter, were 7 1/2 games back.

"Hopefully for the rest of the season, we'll be able to just win series," said outfielder David Murphy, sixth in the AL with a .314 batting average after becoming an everyday player. "And we'll be in a good spot."

Texas has won eight of its last nine series, and 11 of 13, after taking two of three games against Seattle over the weekend. The Rangers haven't lost consecutive games in more than a month.

And yet their division lead shrunk to two games — the smallest in more than five months, since the first week of the season — when the A's won eight of nine games. Oakland lost at home to Baltimore on Sunday, the first time in 10 days Texas was able to add a game to its division lead that was 5 1/2 games at the start of that stretch.

The Rangers play seven of their last 10 games against Oakland, which is 41-19 since the All-Star break. But they play at Los Angeles and Seattle this week before coming home for four games against the A's, then three more against the Angels. The season-ending series at Oakland is in two weeks.

"They're feeling good about themselves and the way they're playing," Washington said about the A's before pointing to the schedule on the wall in his office listing probable pitchers with an Angels trio. "On the board, Weaver, Wilson, Greinke. Come on, I certainly ain't thinking about Oakland."

Ryan Dempster, who has won five consecutive starts with a 1.91 ERA and 36 strikeouts in 33 innings, starts the Tuesday night series opener against the Angels and Jered Weaver (17-4).

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