Even after Sunday's crushing 6-5 loss to the A's, the Halos are mathematically still alive in the American League Wild Card race, although they trail both the Red Sox and Rays. Each of their final three games is now a must win, and they would need quite a bit of help from Boston and Tampa Bay to make the final game of the season matter.
But for now, they will need another strong outing from right-hander Dan Haren, who will take the ball against Rangers ace C.J. Wilson on Monday at Angel Stadium of Anaheim.
"The team's got a lot on the line -- we have to win," Haren said. "We could have folded when we lost two out of three in Baltimore and then the first game in Toronto, but the team stayed together, the way it has all season, and played good baseball. We know what we have to do now -- win."
Texas, the AL West champion, is still fighting with Detroit for the AL's No. 2 seed and home-field advantage in the ALDS. But manager Ron Washington is electing to rest most of his stars and prepare for the playoffs, although he says he still expects to win no matter who he pencils into the starting lineup.
"The thing about this game is -- you put guys out there that you're supposed to win with and you lose, [and] you put guys out there that you're supposed to lose with and you win. Every single guy in my clubhouse, I've won with them in the lineup and I've lost with them in the lineup," Washington said. "The most important thing is they need to be ready to go. They grind for me the whole year, the same guys, and they need a break.
"I'm going to give them a break. I want to win, and we expect to win with whoever we put out there, but I have to get them ready. I don't want to go into Friday and still feeling lag. We're going into Friday mentally fresh and physically fresh."
The Rangers' 52-29 home record is better than anyone in the AL -- except the Yankees, their ALDS opponent if they finish behind the Tigers. But Michael Young agreed with his manager, noting the unpredictable nature of the postseason.
"We'd prefer to be playing at home, but it won't be the end of the world if we end up in New York. It doesn't matter to us at all," Young said. "I think every team would prefer to start at home, but last year we ended up on the road and that played well for us. It doesn't really matter. When the postseason comes, good teams are good teams for a reason, because they put that stuff aside and go out and play."
Rangers: Wilson, rotation will be well rested
In keeping with his mentality that home-field advantage is not that important to the Rangers, Washington said Sunday he would rest every pitcher who will be on the playoff roster -- especially the starters. Alexi Ogando pitched two innings on Saturday, Derek Holland threw five innings Sunday and Wilson -- their ALDS Game 1 starter -- will throw "maybe three innings" on Monday, Washington said.
The frontline relievers are getting a rest, too. Closer Neftali Feliz and setup men Koji Uehara and Mike Adams had Sunday off.
Washington said Sunday the starting left fielder in the playoffs will be determined by matchups, and the only guarantees in the outfield are center fielder Josh Hamilton and right fielder Nelson Cruz. The manager previously suggested David Murphy would get the nod as long as he was swinging the bat well, but now the matchup with the opposing starting pitcher will come into play.
"You could see [Craig] Gentry, you could see Murphy, you could see [Endy] Chavez," Washington said. "There's no set [plan]. The only thing that's set is Hamilton and Cruz. The rest of it is flexible."
Angels: Haren healthy, aiming for 17th win
Haren is going after his career-high 17th win Monday, having won three of his past four starts. But his most recent outing ended with Haren taking a painful line drive off his left wrist in Toronto on the final pitch of an eight-inning gem. Haren recoiled in pain, worried that he'd broken his left arm, but it turned out to be a left wrist contusion.
Haren called the whole moment "a blur" and realized how fortunate he was that the ball just struck flesh, not bone.
"It definitely hurt," Haren said. "When I first got hit, there was a pretty good deal of pain. The initial reaction is you're scared you broke something. After a few seconds, the feeling came back in the hand and I could tell I was going to be all right."
It would be something of an understatement to say Angels outfielder Torii Hunter wants to be back in the playoffs. Hunter, who went 1-for-3 on Sunday with a double, a walk and a run, used the word "failure" to describe his previous postseason experiences and spoke in honest terms about how much he'd like to change that feeling.
"I've been desperate since August," he said. "I'm taking my playoff approach into these games. I'm hungry, man. I want to know what it feels like to celebrate after the last game of the season."
The Angels are 7-9 against the Rangers this year and 3-4 at home. Texas nearly swept the Halos the last time the clubs met in Anaheim, but Mark Trumbo's walk-off home run off Mike Adams on Aug. 18 handed the Rangers a 2-1 loss.
Adrian Beltre hit his 30th homer of the year Sunday, giving him home runs in three straight games. He now has 10 homers in his last 13 games. No Rangers player had hit nine homers in a 12-game span since Mark Teixeira in July 2004.