Forgive the potential hyperbole, but when the Angels open their series against the Rangers at 5:05 PM today, it will either be the beginning of the end to their 2012 season or a bright new beginning to their quest to reconquer the AL West.
While the baseball-loving free world would have you believe that the Rangers have already wrapped up their third straight division title, they enter the series seven games ahead of the Angels. That's a big lead, but should the Halos manage a three-game sweep of Texas, that lead would be whittled down to a perfectly manageable, not at all insurmountable four games. Yeah, I know, with the way the Angels are playing and the way the Rangers are playing, a Halo sweep of Texas seems unlikely, but that doesn't mean it is impossible.
But honestly, it isn't about narrowing the gap in the division, that is just a happy side effect. What the Angels need this weekend is a series win of any kind and the associated boost in confidence that comes with besting the supposed best team in baseball and your top rival on their home field. That, my friends, is something the Angels need more than bullpen help, catching depth or Pujols to play like his old self. OK, maybe not the the Pujols thing, but you get my point.
The Angels are supposed to be contenders, but they haven't done anything remotely contenderish yet. Hell, they haven't done anything other than prove that they can beat up on the abysmal Twins. But a series win over the Rangers, now that would be sweet. And it would be the perfect jump-start for a Halo turnaround, which they badly need. They need it not just because of hole that they dug for themselves in the division, but because if they are ever going to start playing well, it has to be now.
No, not now because they are facing Texas, but because of who comes after the Rangers. Their next 14 games post-Texas come against the Athletics for two, the White Sox for two, the Padres for three, the Athletics for three more and then the Mariners for four. After wasting their Downy soft April schedule, the last thing the Angels can afford to do is not run rampant over this batch of cupcakes they are about to be served.
I just don't think they can do that if they don't get the ball rolling in Arlington first. While a series win would finally prove to the team that they have overcome their wretched start to the season, a series loss or, gulp, getting swept, would be a deathblow to this club. Christ, look how tightly wound Albert Pujols is. He nearly beat li'l Erick Aybar to death with his glove because he playfully slapped his elbow after a win. Imagine what the clubhouse will be like if the Halos get smacked around in this three-game series.
Yikes, I don't even want to think about. We'll cross this bridge when we come to it, but let's hope we won't ever come to it.