There are no playoff implications on the line, but third place in the American League West is at stake.
Divisional positioning is a motivating factor on Wednesday when the Los Angeles Angels face the Texas Rangers in Arlington, Texas.
After the Angels (65-83) took the opener of the three-game series on Tuesday, 5-2, they are now 1 1/2 games ahead of the Rangers (63-84) for third place in the division standings.
For the season, the Rangers hold an 8-6 series edge.
With two weeks remaining, both managers are talking about finishing strongly.
“For us, everything is the same,” Rangers interim manager Tony Beasley said Tuesday during a pregame radio interview. “We want to win a ballgame. It doesn’t matter who we’re playing or what their situation is.
“What our situation is, we’re out of the playoffs. They’re out of the playoffs. But it’s a ballgame. We expect to win a ballgame. Nothing changes for us, preparation-wise. We want to win the ballgame. Point blank.”
Angels interim manager Phil Nevin also talked pregame on Tuesday about fighting until the end.
The pitching matchup for Wednesday features Rangers right-hander Dane Dunning (3-8, 4.49 ERA) and Angels left-hander Tucker Davidson (2-6, 6.96).
With their loss to the Seattle Mariners on Monday, the Angels were officially eliminated from playoff consideration.
While Los Angeles had been out of the race for a while, the club has shown progress, winning four of its past five.
The Angels’ victory on Wednesday came courtesy of a three-run sixth inning, though the frame ended with a highlight for the Rangers. Texas turned its second triple play of the season — a first in franchise history — when rookie third baseman Josh Jung began a 5-4-3 triple killing on Max Stassi’s grounder.
“It was (hit) in a perfect spot,” Beasley said. “It led (Jung) to the base. He just had to step to second and turn it. It was probably one of the easiest-looking triple plays that I’ve ever seen.”
Nevin added, “You’ve got to hit it hard to hit into a triple play, especially when you go the 5-4-3 route. Just an unfortunate play.”
The Rangers hope Dunning won’t need any rare defensive help as he seeks his first win since Aug. 18. In three September starts, the right-hander is 0-1 with a 7.53 ERA.
Dunning is 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA in four starts against the Angels this season, having allowed four home runs in 22 innings. For his career, he is 1-3 with a 5.75 ERA in seven starts against Los Angeles.
Davidson joined the Angels from the Braves at the trade deadline as part of the deal that sent reliever Raisel Iglesias to Atlanta.
Davidson hopes to bounce back after a rough outing on Sept. 11 against the Houston Astros, when he gave up four runs on five hits in two innings. His next turn in the rotation was skipped
This will be Davidson’s first appearance against the Rangers.
The Angels last were in the postseason in 2014, and they have not won a playoff game since 2009.
For a franchise that has Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani, expectations were clearly higher than being mathematically eliminated from the expanded wild-card race more than two weeks before the end of the season.
Trout was hitless in four at-bats on Tuesday, while Ohtani had a single and scored a run.
Trout has 36 homers, and Ohtani is 13-8 with a 2.43 ERA and 196 strikeouts in 148 innings as a pitcher, as well as 34 home runs, 89 RBIs and an .891 OPS as a hitter.
Still, the team results have not come for Los Angeles.