The Texas Rangers can thank a six-game winning streak for getting them back into the playoff mix and hope to stay in contention Sunday in the finale of a four-game series versus the LA Angels of Anaheim.
The Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays are tied for the second wild card spot in the American League and sit a game behind the Cleveland Indians. If the Rangers win and the Rays lose on Sunday, Texas will clinch the second spot and visit the Indians for Wednesday's wild card game. Cleveland won the tiebreaker.
If the Rangers and Rays both win Sunday and the Indians lose, Cleveland will host the Rays on Monday, with the loser of that game facing the Rangers in Texas on Tuesday.
Texas extended its winning streak with Saturday's 7-4 win over the Angels, as a four-run second inning gave the hosts some breathing room. Craig Gentry had two hits, an RBI and a run scored, while Alex Rios and A.J. Pierzynski each drove in a run for the Rangers, who took advantage of five Anaheim errors.
"All this is great, and all this is fun and all this won't matter if we don't win tomorrow," Pierzynski said of the playoff race. "We still got to win tomorrow. That's the biggest thing. To get through today, especially with the weather coming on and an 11 a.m. kickoff, it was good."
The Rangers and Angels were originally scheduled to play in the evening, but a storm in the Arlington area forced the schedule makers to adjust the game time.
Rangers starter Derek Holland struggled on the mound and allowed four runs and eight hits in 4 2/3 innings for a no-decision. Joakim Soria tossed 1 1/3 scoreless innings of relief for the win and Joe Nathan nailed down his 43rd save in the ninth.
Yu Darvish gets the call for the Rangers Sunday. Darvish is only 1-4 in his previous five decisions and did not factor in the outcome of a 3-2 win over the Houston Astros on Tuesday, when he struck out nine and scattered four runs across 5 1/3 innings of two-run ball. Darvish, who has fanned at least nine batters in five of his last nine starts, is 13-9 with a 2.82 earned run average in 31 starts.
The right-hander has faced the Angels nine times in his career, going 6-1 with a 3.83 ERA, and has won all three meetings with them this season.
The Angels will close out their disappointing season Sunday and have lost three in a row and five of their last seven games. After landing coveted free agent slugger Josh Hamilton to join forces with Albert Pujols and Mike Trout, the Angels failed to live up to expectations.
Now Angels manager Mike Scioscia could be on the way out.
In Saturday's setback at the Ballpark, Angels starter Garrett Richards allowed six runs, three of which were earned, and six hits in 4 1/3 innings.
"We're going to try to come back tomorrow and beat these guys, and hopefully end the year on a positive note," said Richards.
Erick Aybar highlighted the Angels' offense with three hits and three runs scored and Trout was credited with a pair of RBI.
Toeing the rubber for the Halos Sunday will be Jason Vargas. Vargas ended a four-game winless drought (0-2) with a shutout versus Oakland on Tuesday. In the 3-0 victory that lifted Vargas' record to 9-7 in 23 starts with a 4.01 ERA, the right-hander scattered four hits, struck out five and walked one.
Vargas is 4-6 in 18 lifetime matchups (16 starts) with the Rangers and has no record and a 2.89 ERA in three starts this season.
Texas is 14-4 versus the Angels this season and has won seven in a row against them in Arlington.