SEATTLE -- With fewer than 30 games left and the Rangers clinging to a three-game lead over the Angels in the American League West entering Monday, the schedule, on the surface, appears to favor the hunter over the hunted.
Of course, reality has been known to interfere with best-laid plans -- and perceptions.
While Texas, off on Monday, has 15 of its 27 remaining games against clubs with .500 or better records, the Angels have only six games against winning teams. They engage the Yankees in a three-game series at home from Sept. 9-11 and wrap up the season with the Rangers in a potentially huge three-game set at Angel Stadium from Sept. 26-28.
Texas has three games against the Red Sox, six against the Rays and three with the Indians, along with six each against the Athletics and Mariners. The Rangers have 12 remaining home games in their cozy confines in Arlington.
The Angels have seven games with Seattle, including a four-game series that started Monday night in Safeco Field. Along with three against the Yanks and Rangers, they also have six games against the A's, four against the Blue Jays and three apiece against the Twins and Orioles. Fifteen of the final 29 are at home.
Veteran baseball people often debate whether it's preferable to face a fellow contender down the stretch or a club with nothing to lose, usually featuring a number of athletes playing for future jobs.
The Mariners fit right into the latter category with a collection of young talent -- Mike Carp, Dustin Ackley, Casper Wells, Trayvon Robinson, Kyle Seager -- intent on building cases for featured roles next season. They also have Rookie of the Year candidate Michael Pineda in the rotation with Felix Hernandez.
"Hopefully, we're playing free," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said in response to a question about facing a club, such as the Mariners, with no stress of a pennant race. "It's the only way to play baseball. They have a lot of talent. A lot of it is young and good. It's a lineup where, if you're not making pitches, they're going to let you know.
"Even though their [56-76] won-loss record isn't where they want it to be, they have a lot of positives. I want our guys to go out and play free. It's the way you carry yourself every day."