Dallas Braden, who earlier this season pitched a perfect game against another playoff team, the Tampa Bay Rays, threw 8 shutout innings last night, only allowing one hit.
It seems like for the last week and a half, the Rangers magic number to eliminate both the A's and Angels, and clinch the West has been less than 10. However, they lost two-of-three to the Angels earlier in the week, and another two-of-three to the lowly Mariners last weekend.
The Rangers are still in good shape, however. Even if they lose the next three against Oakland, they are still up 4 with 7 to play, and they draw Seattle and the Angels in those final games of the season.
At this rate, however, the Rangers could be the last to clinch a playoff spot in the American League, and that could have a pretty terrible effect on the teams chemistry. If the Rangers had played the last 30 games like they played the first 120, they would have clinched weeks ago, but they have seemingly already shut it down for the postseason, hoping to win enough games to get by.
Unless they can manage to win 8 or 9 of their last 10, I'm not going to expect anything but a first round sweep by whatever AL East team they draw in the first round (right now, that'd be the Yankees). The offense almost looks worse than the Angels, and even Cliff Lee, their three month superstar, couldn't get the job done last night against the A's.
They have Tommy "Big Game" Hunter on the mound tonight against an Oakland rookie. If they can't distance themselves from the AL West pack tonight, its likely just an early sign of things to come in October against far superior opponents.