A look inside the AL wild-card race

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Rangers say they're not desperate, still on the outside looking in in the American League wild-card race.

But they need some help, starting with the New York Yankees, Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins as the final week is underway.

The Rangers started the week with a bang Monday night with a 12-0 win over the hapless Houston Astros as outfielder Alex Rios became the seventh player in club history to hit for the cycle.

"The good thing is we won," Rios said. "It doesn't do any good looking at what's happening around us. We know what's in front of us. It's not going to be easy, but we're still optimistic."

Here's how the start of the week sets up for all of the contenders:

Rangers (85-71, .545, 1 game out of second wild-card spot)

Next up: Tuesday-Wednesday vs. Houston; Thursday vs LA Angels

Opponents' record: The Astros are 51-106 and the Angels are 76-80

The latest: The Rangers have been getting great starting pitching. Texas starters are 4-0 with a 1.34 ERA in their last seven games.

Forecast: The Rangers will finish off a three-game sweep of Houston. Their four-game series against the Angels will be far more difficult.

Rays (87-69, .558, in lead for first wild-card spot)

Next up: Tuesday-Thursday at New York Yankees

Opponents' record: The Yankees are 82-74

The latest: The Rays swept a four-game series against Baltimore with two walk-off wins. Tampa's 18-inning victory Friday may be the one the Rays look back on as the reason they reached the postseason.

Forecast: The Rays have struggled on the road with a 36-39 record. They'll lose two out of three to the proud Yankees.

Indians (86-70, .542, in lead for second wild-card spot)

Next up: Tuesday-Wednesday vs. the White Sox; Thursday at Minnesota

Opponents' record: The White Sox are 62-94 and the Twins are 66-90

The latest: The Indians took care of business by winning four straight against Houston. The schedule stays soft, but the pressure mounts on the Tribe.

Forecast: The Indians will slip up and split two games with the White Sox. Cleveland should have the pitching edge against the Twins.

Royals (83-73, .532, 3 games back in wild-card race)

Next up: Tuesday-Wednesday at Seattle; Thursday at White Sox

Opponents' record: The Mariners are 69-89 and the White Sox are 62-94

The latest: The Royals topped the Mariners on Monday night, 6-5, keeping their momentum going after winning two of three from the Rangers.

Forecast: The Royals will split the next two games against Seattle, then get set for what should be a winning series against the White Sox.

Yankees (82-74, .526, 4 games back in wild-card race)

Next up: Tuesday-Thursday vs. Tampa Bay

Opponents' record: The Rays are 87-69

The latest: The Yankees shut down starting pitcher C.C. Sabathia and lost a crucial game Sunday to the San Francisco Giants. They have the Mariano Rivera farewell tour working in their favor.

Forecast: See above. Yankee pride will show up with a series win over the Rays.

Orioles (81-75, .519, 5 games back in wild-card race)

Next up: Tuesday-Thursday vs. Toronto

Opponents' record: The Blue Jays are 71-85

The latest: First baseman Chris Davis hit another home run Monday, giving him 52 for the season. But the Orioles crumbled in Tampa and lost four straight.

Forecast: See above. The Orioles will win two of three from the Blue Jays, but they'll be eliminated from the wild-card race in the process.