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AL Playoff Picture: Angels Need To Defeat Rangers

The Los Angeles Angels find themselves needing to win the series against the Texas Rangers to remain in the playoff race in the American League.

September 9, 2012; Anaheim, CA, USA; Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Zack Greinke (23) pitches in the third inning against the Detroit Tigers at Angel Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE
September 9, 2012; Anaheim, CA, USA; Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Zack Greinke (23) pitches in the third inning against the Detroit Tigers at Angel Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE

This isn't how Jerry Dipoto and Arte Moreno drew it up.

The Los Angeles Angels, despite the offseason acquisitions of future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, find themselves desperate on Tuesday, needing a series victory over the Texas Rangers just to remain in hunt for the second wild card spot in the American League.

Make no mistake, the Angels are still a good baseball team. They aren't, however, as good as they should be -- and they certainly aren't great.

Los Angeles enters this series against the Rangers three full games back of the Baltimore Orioles, with just 15 games left to play in 2012. There is absolutely no margin for error for the Angels, especially in this series against the Rangers, as the Orioles face off against the lowly Mariners.

As if being three games out of a playoff spot was bad enough, Los Angeles' remaining schedule isn't doing them any favors. Once the Angels wrap up a three-game series against the Rangers, they play host to the AL Central leading Chicago White Sox, who are three games up on the Detroit Tigers -- and need wins themselves to hold off Jim Leyland's club.

The Angels will then wrap up a nine-game homestand against the Mariners, before headed to Arlington to take on the Rangers. Los Angeles then concludes the season in Seattle.

Baltimore's schedule is tricky, though they will play at best one playoff team down the stretch. Baltimore will wrap up a series in Seattle before headed to Fenway Park this weekend. The Orioles will then have a seven-game homestand, playing host to the Blue Jays and Red Sox before concluding the season in Tampa Bay against the fast-fading Rays.

To say the Angels have no chance is silly -- almost as silly as saying the Angels might be the first team with too many good players. Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson and Zack Greinke, Los Angeles' best three pitchers, will be facing off against the Rangers in this series. Certainly, the Angels will have a chance in each of the three games because of this, but that's not to say that Ryan Dempster, Derek Holland and Yu Darvish can't equal their counterparts.

Still, when Ian Kinsler leads off on Tuesday night against Jered Weaver, there's going to be something in the air. It's going to feel like a playoff atmosphere in Angels Stadium. It just isn't the playoff atmosphere what the Angels thought it would be. The Angels and Angels fans alike likely saw this series on the calender in April and figured this would be the series that would determine the AL West champion, and potentially, the top seed in the American League.

Instead, the Rangers are up two games on the Oakland Athletics, who have a payroll nearly $100,000,000 less than the Angels, and seven and a half on the Angels.

The Rangers need to win, too. Texas is only three games up on Oakland for the AL West lead, and need to hold off the A's, or else end up as one of two teams in a do-or-die playoff game to advance to the American League Division Series.

Are the Angels capable of winning this series, and going on to catch Baltimore and qualifying for one of the two wild cards? Absolutely. Time, however, is not on Los Angeles' side, and the Angels need this series.

Yes, both teams need to win. The Angels, however, are desperate for wins. Missing the playoffs after signing Pujols and Wilson, and then trading the team's top prospect, and two solid arms, for two months of Greinke, would simply be unacceptable and nothing short of disappointing.

Photographs by jamesbrandon, jdtornow, phlezk, flygraphix, mcdlttx, tomasland, and literalbarrage used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.