Originally posted on Fox Sports West  |  Last updated 6/3/12
ANAHEIM, Calif. It looks like we're finally going to have a race in the American League West. The Angels and Texas Rangers have played six times this season, and so far all they've determined is that they stand on equal ground. Each team has won three games, but they've really just begun. There are still 13 games left between them, including six meetings in 13 days in late September. That's a lot of baseball, and a lot of time to establish which team is poised to win the American League West. The Rangers took the series finale 7-3 on a bright Sunday afternoon at Angel Stadium, but the Angels won the first two games and made it clear this is indeed a two-team race. "We won the series," Angels pitcher Dan Haren said. "We've got to look at the big picture. I don't think guys should be hanging their heads." A sweep would have been nice, but the Angels had to be content with pushing first-place Texas off course a bit. The Rangers, who opened the season with a 15-4 record, are 17-18 since April 27. The Angels, who once trailed by nine games, are now within 4. They did just enough to win on Friday and Saturday nights, but they have yet to sustain an offensive punch over an extended period. And maybe that's what's holding them back. They rank 11th in the American League in runs and slugging and are 12th in on-base percentage. Unless they can put runners on base and drive them home, their pitching will have problems keeping games close. "The one thing through this stretch that has not blossomed has been our offense," manager Mike Scioscia said. "We've been doing it really with just a minimal amount of offense, but we've been pitching well, playing great defense, and our bullpen has been lights out. That's a nice combination to have, but we still need that offense to take a step forward." The Angels stranded runners at second and third base in the sixth inning and left the bases loaded in the seventh when Rangers reliever Alexi Ogando got Albert Pujols to fly out to left field a 99-mph fastball. "He opened up that carburetor for Albert," Scioscia said of Ogando, who has no trouble reaching 100 mph on the radar gun. "He turned it loose there." Haren labored through five innings, throwing 104 pitches and giving up two runs. The Rangers kept the pressure on offensively and finished with 14 hits, including a two-run homer by Nelson Cruz off reliever Bobby Cassevah that went an estimated 484 feet and landed on the grassy slope near the palms and rocks in left-center. "Any time you throw 100 pitches in five innings it's going to wear you down," Haren said. "You're not going to be at your best if you're throwing 25, 30 pitches an inning." He wasn't, but the Rangers don't go down easily to anyone. They out-hit the Angels in the three games by a 30-18 margin, although Josh Hamilton was kept in check (2 for 13, no RBIs). "Their 7, 8, 9 hitters could probably hit 3, 4, 5 in a couple of National League lineups," Haren said. "They never let you breathe. You've got to be at your best the whole way through." The Angels weren't, at least not Sunday, but they know they're certainly capable of staying relevant the rest of the way. They don't see the Rangers again until late July, and by then both teams will know just how good they are and how good the other team is. "A series is just your report card on how did in a three- or four-game set," Scioscia said. "We need to carry a little momentum with a win and turn the page on a loss. We'll turn the page on this one." With a lot more pages left in the season, the story is far from finished.
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