The AL West race may be over as the Athletics sweep the Rangers

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The Athletics won for the 16th time in their last 20 games this afternoon, wrapping up a series sweep over the limping Rangers. The win pushes their lead to 6.5 games with 13 games left to play, effectively wrapping up the division. The Rangers lost their sixth consecutive game and haven’t won consecutive games since August 27-28. They remain tied with the Rays for both AL Wild Card spots.

It was close early. The A’s scored twice in the first on Jed Lowrie’s double play and a solo home run by Josh Donaldson. The Rangers got one back in the bottom of the first on A.J. Pierzynski’s RBI single. Outfielder Chris Young hit a solo home run in the fourth to bump the score to 3-1 in favor of the Athletics. From there, A’s starter Tommy Milone and Rangers starter Martin Perez limited the offense.

The Athletics put the game out of reach in the top of the ninth when Josh Reddick hit a two-run home run to right field off of Joakim Soria. Athletics reliever Jesse Chavez pitched a perfect ninth to finalize the 5-1 victory.

Battle of the Aces: Max Scherzer takes on Clayton Kershaw tonight

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I hope you don’t have any plans tonight at around 10PM Eastern time, because that’s when we get a pitching matchup for the ages as Max Scherzer will take on Clayton Kershaw at Dodger Stadium. When they meet tonight it will be the first time two pitchers with three or more Cy Young Awards have matched up since 2006. That year, and in 2005 and 2000, Roger Clemens faced Greg Maddux. In 2001 Clemens faced Pedro Martinez.

Kershaw won his hardware in 2011, 2013 and 2014, with an MVP award in 2014 to boot. Scherzer collected trophies in 2013, 2016 and 2017. Each has started the 2018 season in Cy Young form. Kershaw is 1-2, but that record is due to poor run support. He has a 1.73 ERA and has struck out 31 batters and has walked only three in 26 innings. Scherzer is 3-1 with a 1.33 ERA and a whopping 38 strikeouts to only 4 walks in 27 innings.

This will be the third time that Kershaw and Scherzer faced each other if you include the playoffs. The first meeting was a decade ago when both were rookies. They most recently faced off in Game 1 of the 2016 NLDS, way back when Scherzer only had one Cy Young Award to his credit. Kershaw beat Scherzer in that playoff game and the Dodgers beat Scherzer’s teams in the two regular season matchups, with neither guy setting the world on fire. As so often happens in baseball, the hype hasn’t been matched by reality.

Still, there’s always a chance it will. And even if, in the end, this turns into a slugfest, the first couple of innings should at least give us some hope of something good. I’ll be watching.