Extra Bases: Don't get trapped by schedule

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Word to the wise for those scoreboard watching the Rangers and the Oakland A's.

Yes, the Rangers are playing teams with losing records this month. Yes, the A's have Baltimore and Detroit on the road for seven games after three at home against Seattle on Monday-Wednesday.

Just don't get trapped into thinking baseball's that easy.

The Rangers just lost two out of three to the Mariners at home. The A's took a three-game series from Cleveland, which has a winning record.

The Rangers start Monday a half game ahead of the A's. This appears like it's going to be a fight to the finish, easy schedule or not.

"That's why I hate the fact that people say that," Texas closer Joe Nathan said of saying the Rangers have it easy right now. "Look at who we just faced."

Seattle rolled out All-Star starters Hisashi Iwakuma and Felix Hernandez, who had a combined .660 winning percentage entering the weekend. The Rangers feel fortunate to split those games.

Then there was Mariners young gun Erasmo Ramirez, who painted the corners with a 95 mph cutter and sinker on Sunday in what was eventually a 4-3 victory for Seattle. He pitched nothing like a guy with a 7.06 ERA.

Good starting pitching gives you a chance every day. The Rangers know that as well as anyone. That's why sloppy defense and poor baserunning -- Elvis Andrus getting thrown out trying to steal third base in the eighth inning of a tie game was a brutal mistake -- can be devastating if the opposing starter is on that day.

"He was nasty from the start," Nathan said. "Seattle steps up to a new level when they're playing in the division and against us for sure."

The good news is the A's have to deal with Seattle now. The Rangers get Houston, and while they're 11-2 against the Astros, look for their starters -- especially Tuesday with rookie stud Jarred Cosart on a tear and Erik Bedard, who always gives Texas problems.

The schedule isn't going to make life easier for the Rangers or A's. You still have to play consistent baseball and win games.

WHAT'S UP NOW: Rapid Reaction from Sunday's 4-3 loss to Seattle. Jean-Jacques Taylor writes that the Rangers need more from Yu Darvish. Plus, post-game blog on Joe Nathan losing his ninth-inning battle against Kyle Seager.

ON DECK: Rangers right-hander Matt Garza (8-2, 3.40) faces Astros right-hander Lucas Harrell (6-13, 5.16) at 7:05 p.m. Monday night on Fox Sports Southwest and ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM and 1540-AM.

QUESTION OF THE DAY: Are you concerned that the Rangers haven't hit a home run in 40 innings?