While the AL playoff picture gained more clarity on Monday night, the overall picture is still a bit hazy. We know which five teams are headed to the playoffs, but only the Detroit Tigers know that they're division champions.
For the Texas Rangers and Rangers fans, though, the picture is clear as ever: the Rangers need to win on Tuesday in Oakland.
Yes, the Rangers have already clinched a playoff berth and will be playing in the postseason no matter what. But that's not the goal for the Rangers. For a team like the Baltimore Orioles or Oakland Athletics, that's a damn fine season in '12.
For the Rangers, a playoff berth isn't the goal. Nothing short of a third pennant can be considered a wild success for the Rangers, and nothing short of a World Series title can really satiate the fans.
The best and easiest path to the World Series involves winning the AL West. The Rangers can do that with a win on Tuesday night, and ease the nerves of Rangers fans throughout the world -- as well as the Rangers' nerves themselves. A loss, however, would draw the Oakland A's even with the Rangers headed into a winner-take-all Game 162 on Wednesday.
That's a scenario the Rangers want to avoid. Ryan Dempster is slated to start Wednesday afternoon against A.J. Griffin, who has been sensational for the A's since being recalled from the minor leagues.
The good news for the Rangers is that Tuesday night's matchup favors them, as Matt Harrison starts against Travis Blackley, in arguably the second biggest start of Harrison's career. Texas pounded Blackley last week, and hopefully for Rangers fans, they do the same tonight.
The rest of the playoff picture is a bit more clear. The Detroit Tigers clinched the AL Central last night, completing their comeback and putting the finishing touches on the Chicago White Sox' collapse. The Yankees are now one game ahead of the Baltimore Orioles in the AL East, and now control their own destiny.
If the season ended today, this is how the ALDS would look:
Wild Card round
Baltimore Orioles at Oakland A's
American League Division Series
Texas Rangers at Detroit Tigers (2-3 format)
New York Yankees at Oakland/Baltimore winner (2-3 format)