It's taken a lot of wins in a short time to get the Oakland Athletics back, but they finally arrived at the top of the American League West division again yesterday with a 4-2 win over the visiting Texas Rangers at the O.co Coliseum.
And tonight, the A's will try to put the Rangers in the rear view for good in 2013.
While Texas is probably too good for that to happen, Oakland has a real shot to distance itself from its division rival this month -- with an easier schedule remaining and only five head-to-head games left, none after mid-September.
The sooner the A's can pull away, perhaps, the better off their playoff chances will be in October.
And there's no time like the present.
Oakland sends Bartolo Colon (14-5, 2.94 ERA) to the mound tonight at the Coliseum to face Martin Perez (8-3, 3.58 ERA), winner of his last five starts. But Colon is an added presence to the A's rotation they didn't have last year down the stretch.
The big righty gave up just one run in Detroit last Thursday in his first start off the disabled list, and he'll need to do better tonight against the Rangers lineup to save a tired bullpen from more taxation this week.
Of course, September roster expansion gives the A's more options now in the later innings, although not necessarily "better" ones. The sooner Oakland can score runs on offense, the better in terms of resting the key relievers for later in the season -- and the playoffs.
The A's are in a good position to secure a postseason spot this year, and much earlier than last year when they didn't clinch a spot until the third-to-last day of the season. Currently, Oakland is tied for the AL West division lead, of course, but they also have a 5.5-game cushion for a wild-card spot right now.
Game time tonight is 7:05 p.m.