With just over a week left in the 2023 regular season, most of the division races around MLB have already been decided. The AL West, however, has very much not — in fact, it’s shaping up to be quite possibly the tightest division race in the history of divisions:
LOOK AT THE TOP OF THE AL WEST— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) September 20, 2023
This is the 1st time that 3 teams in the same division were all within half a game or fewer of first place with all having 10 games or fewer left to play, since divisions began (1969)
h/t @EliasSports pic.twitter.com/b7PqtEk63R
The Houston Astros, Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers were all off on Thursday. As they all get set to kick off their weekend series on Friday, here’s where things stand: Houston, thanks to its wild walk-off win over the Orioles on Wednesday, leads by a half-game at 85-68, while both the Mariners and Rangers both sit at 84-68 after series victories earlier this week. The race almost literally could not be tighter — but which team is going to come out on top when the dust settles? Who should be considered the favorite with just 10 games to play? We’ll be taking a look at all three teams’ paths to an AL West crown, looking here at the Rangers.
How Texas Rangers can win the AL West
The Rangers are currently the longest shot of the three, with Fangraphs’ playoff odds giving them just a 19.1% chance to take home the division — compared to 50.9% for Houston and 30% for Seattle. Of course, that could all change very quickly this weekend, as Texas hosts the Mariners in a huge three-game set. The Rangers are 5-1 this season against Seattle, and if they take two of three (much less sweep) they put themselves in great position heading into the season’s final week.
That week will begin with a dream matchup, on the road against an Angels team that really might be the very worst in baseball at the moment. It’s hard not to feel like Texas needs a sweep of Los Angeles; Houston and Seattle will be facing off against each other at the same time, presenting an ideal chance for the Rangers to gain some ground. It’s also the only respite left on this schedule: Texas and Seattle will close the season with four more games against each other, this time at T-Mobile Park. It goes without saying that the Rangers don’t want to enter that series needing to make up ground, especially given how unreliable their starting rotation is at the moment with Max Scherzer out and Nathan Eovaldi still building strength after a forearm strain.
AL West prediction
In the end, I do think the Astros get it done. Houston has one series remaining with Seattle, but outside of that gets two eminently beatable teams in the Royals and Diamondbacks. The fact that the Rangers and Mariners will play each other a whopping seven times may come back to bite both of them; maybe one of them gets hot and separates, but it seems more likely that they spend those series beating each other up. (And if one team does take charge, Seattle’s rotation advantage suggests that it’ll probably be them.) Texas’ series against the Angels is a great trump card — it’s the easiest matchup any of these teams have remaining, K.C. included — but it’s hard to trust guys like Dane Dunning and Martin Perez to come through and help the Rangers rack up the necessary wins.