It's almost certain that the Texas Rangers are going to reach the postseason. But, nailing down that spot hasn't been so easy.
They get a chance to clinch at least a wild card berth on Sunday, though, when they play a day/night doubleheader against the surging Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
The twin bill was made necessary due to a postponement on Saturday.
However, both teams took a dip in the playoff standings thanks to the unexpected off day, as Oakland rallied to beat Seattle in extra innings to move within 2 1/2 games of the Rangers in the American League West, while pushing their advantage in the wild card to 2 1/2 games over the Angels.
One win on Sunday will nail down a playoff spot for the Rangers, who could also secure their third straight division title with a sweep and an Oakland loss.
Los Angeles could keep the champagne on ice in game one, as Zack Greinke goes after fifth straight winning decision. The former AL Cy Young Award winner improved to 6-2 as a member of the Angels on Tuesday, as he held the Seattle Mariners to a run and five hits and struck out 13 in five innings.
"Not only was he striking out a lot of guys, but he got into a lot of deep counts, a lot of 3-2 counts and they fouled a lot of pitches off," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He had to work for every out. His pitch count was extraordinarily high for five innings, but he was pitching well. It was a little strange how everything came together."
Greinke is 3-5 in 13 games (11 starts) versus the Rangers with a 2.63 ERA.
Texas, meanwhile, will go with a hot pitcher of its own in the first tilt, handing the ball to Japanese righty Yu Darvish, who is 16-9 with a 3.90 ERA. Darvish won his second straight start and fourth consecutive decision back on Sept. 20 against the Angels, limiting them to a run and four hits in eight innings. He also struck out nine in that one and has fanned at least eight batters in seven of his last eight starts.
Darvish, who was scratched from his last start with a stiff neck, is 3-1 in five starts against the Angels this season.
Texas will hand the ball in game two to lefty Derek Holland, who has won his last four decisions and is 11-6 with a 4.50 ERA. Holland only lasted three innings on Monday against Oakland, though, as he surrendered three runs and four hits with two walks. However, he did not factor in the decision of his team's 5-4 win.
"I didn't do my part," Holland said. "I was very disappointed with the way I pitched, but the bullpen came up huge tonight. I was behind every batter and wasn't throwing anything for strikes. I was very erratic."
Holland is 6-5 lifetime versus the Halos with a 5.27 ERA in 15 games (12 starts).
Opposing Holland will be righty Ervin Santana, who is 9-12 with a 4.93 ERA. Santana was terrific in beating the Chicago White Sox his last time out back on Sept. 21 when he allowed a run and two hits and struck out 11 in seven innings.
Santana, who can become a free agent at season's end, has pitched to a 2.88 ERA since the start of August, but has served up a major league-high 36 home runs on the season.
"I don't have to prove anything," Santana said. "I just have to believe in myself, trust my stuff and pitch."
Santana beat the Rangers the last time he faced them and is 13-10 with a 5.81 ERA in 26 games.
"We'll see if Zack can get us some length in Game 1 and then we have a chance to have more pitchers that aren't going to have to throw in two games," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said, explaining why Greinke is pitching before Santana. "I think it just gives us a better chance with Zack in Game 1 to pitch deep into [the game] and get to a certain point, and then we'll see where we are in Game 2."
In Friday's opener, Jered Weaver spun seven strong innings to become the AL's first 20-game winner in Los Angeles' 7-4 victory.
Weaver (20-4) scattered five hits and walked two while striking out five to earn the victory in the opener of this three-game set. The right-hander is the seventh Angel to win 20 games and the first since 2005 Cy Young winner Bartolo Colon.
"It's a great accomplishment," Weaver said of his career-high 20th win. "I didn't think that I'd ever do it. I have to thank my teammates for getting me to where I'm at. It's a great personal accomplishment but I'm all for winning a World Series before any of that stuff."
Ryan Dempster (7-3) was pegged with the loss after giving up four runs on seven hits and four walks. He struck out seven over 5 2/3 frames.
Adrian Beltre clubbed a two-run home run and Nelson Cruz smacked a solo homer for Texas, which has lost three of four.
"We're not taking anything for granted," outfielder David Murphy said. "We're going to come out playing hard, keep fighting and keep racking up wins."
The Angels have won nine of 17 meetings this season, but Texas has won four of its last six in the series.