Rangers And Angels Continue Series In Anaheim

By: Willie Bee | Tuesday, September 18, 2012

It's hard not to find a crucial series on the MLB schedule right now.  The addition of a second wild card in each league has done its job to keep more teams in the hunt, and created a free-for-all in the American League where eight teams are fighting for five slots with two weeks remaining on the regular season slate.

So it's not an overused cliché to call this week's meeting in Anaheim between the Los Angeles Angels and Texas Rangers a big series.  One look at the pitching matchups might lead one to think the playoffs are already here with both clubs trotting their top three starters out for the 3-game set that got underway Tuesday night.

Wednesday's middle game of the set pits a pair of southpaws as Derek Holland is in line for the Rangers against their former teammate CJ Wilson.  First pitch from Angel Stadium is 10:05 p.m. (ET) with ESPN providing the telecast and leading into the contest with the A's-Tigers tilt in Detroit.

Early MLB odds for Game 2 listed the Angels as $1.25 favorites with an 8½-run total ('under' -120).

The series began with the Rangers on top of the AL West, 7.5-games in front of the Halos.  That margin might normally have had Texas feeling comfortable about its chances to take a third consecutive division flag, but the Oakland Athletics are sitting between the Rangers and Angels just three games out.

Los Angeles held a slight 7-6 lead in this year's series against Texas, taking four of the previous six played in Anaheim.  Totals split down the middle in those six games, 3-3.

Wilson will be seeking the fourth consecutive win on his ledger, and first against his old club when he climbs the hill for Wednesday's clash.  He has been solid so far this month with a 2.55 ERA in three assignments, and appears to have gotten things back on track with the Angels winning his last five starts following a stretch in which they lost eight of nine with Wilson on the mound.

It's the fifth time he has faced Texas this season, including back-to-back starts in Arlington back in April.  Los Angeles halved the previous four, but Wilson failed to decision in the two triumphs, including a dandy performance in Anaheim on June 2 when he blanked the Rangers over six innings.  The Rangers beat him around pretty good in Texas the other three outings, leaving Wilson with an overall 7.27 ERA against them this season.

Like Wilson, Holland appears to be getting into a groove recently after a very inconsistent first four months of the campaign that included a DL stint.  His ERA has come down more than half a run since early August, and Holland has pitched well enough to be riding a personal 5-game win streak going into Wednesday's battle.  But his offense and bullpen failed him the last two times out, both no-decisions for Holland and eventual losses for the Rangers.

Holland has been consistent in his two assignments vs. the Angels this season, though not consistently good.  He took the loss in both games, one in Texas and the other in Anaheim, working 6-2/3 innings and surrendering six runs each time along with five homers combined.  Holland was 5-1 against LA entering this year with a 4.14 ERA covering nine starts and three relief appearances.

The latest injury news for the Angels had reserve infielder Maicer Izturis questionable while dealing with a rib cage issue.  Texas was hoping to have closer Joe Nathan back for the start of the series after he was given time off to rest his arm for the stretch run and playoffs.

Tuesday's series opener was still pending in a mound duel between Ryan Dempster and Jered Weaver.  The Angels were listed at -140 behind their lanky ace and the contest carried a 7½-run total.  Thursday's finale finds Yu Darvish on the bump for Texas opposite LA's Zack Greinke.

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