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."
Cassevah earning Scioscia's trust out of 'pen
SEATTLE -- Without much fanfare, Bobby Cassevah has been one of the Angels' most consistent relievers of late, a development that certainly hasn't escaped the attention of manager Mike Scioscia.
"He's pitching to his capabilities and, yes, he's definitely risen on the depth chart because of the way he's throwing the ball," Scioscia said.
Cassevah surfaced in a big situation on Sunday night in Texas, replacing Scott Downs with the Angels down by a run in the seventh inning and the bases loaded. Pinch-hitter Endy Chavez chopped a single through a drawn-in infield for two runs, and Cassevah controlled the damage with a double-play grounder.
"Bobby responded well," Scioscia said, adding that the big right-hander was a "fraction of inches from a big double play" on Chavez's chopper. "We loaded the bases again with an intentional walk and he got out of it."
Cassevah owns a power sinker in the 91-94 mph range complemented by a slider and split-fingered fastball that functions as his change of pace.
"My sinker is going really good," Cassevah said. "I'm throwing strikes, getting ahead [in counts]. The main thing is confidence. It's nice that [Scioscia] is showing the trust to use me in a situation like that."
A big-time recruit by the likes of Louisiana State as a high school quarterback in Florida, Cassevah has been throwing the split since his teens.
"I've always had big hands," he said, grinning, "so it's something that kind of came naturally."
Cassevah has a 2.67 ERA in 18 appearances, holding opponents to a .211 batting average across 27 innings.
Callups to provide Angels with relief help
SEATTLE -- The Angels plan to fortify their bullpen when rosters are eligible to be expanded with Minor League talent on Thursday.
Among those who figure to be recalled are Trevor Bell, Garrett Richards, Tyler Chatwood and Michael Kohn.
Chatwood and Richards, like Bell, are starters who give the Angels flexibility with his ability to pitch in any role. Kohn has racked up impressive numbers of late at Triple-A Salt Lake after a few rough outings led to his demotion on July 20.
"He's definitely throwing the ball better," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of Kohn, the right-hander with the power arm. "He has much better command."
Kohn has 62 strikeouts against 19 walks in 45 1/3 innings at Salt Lake. Kevin Jepsen, a valuable setup man for the Angels in 2009 and 2010, apparently is down for the season with a knee injury expected to require surgery. Jason Bulger, another productive former Angels reliever, also has been pitching impressively at Salt Lake but is not on the 40-man roster. The same holds for versatile outfielder Reggie Willits.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.