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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Tuesday, August 16, 2011 at 10:37 AM

There's a HUGE series going on right now in the American League that we're going to spend some time with today. Wednesday, we'll move over to the National League to check in on the Arizona Diamondbacks as they confront a 'Week from Hell' that has road trips to Philadelphia and Atlanta. We'll get back to football Thursday when the NFL Preseason schedule kicks back in.

Both Texas and the Angels have been featured this summer on these pages because they've been important in the pennant race picture for so long. We don't want to rehash everything that's been said already. A quick nutshell summary:

*The Texas pitching staff is much better than people realize. Arlington is a hitter's paradise that hurts their stats. If you subtract out the ballpark influence, Texas rises up to one of the elites in the sport.

*The Texas offense isn't as good as people think. Subtract out the ballpark influence and they become mortal very quickly. The mainstream media is still framing matchups in the fashion of 'can the bats of Texas beat the pitching of so-and-so.' The pitching of Texas is great…the bats aren't what you think they are.

*Los Angeles is getting great stuff from the top three men in their starting rotation. But, the four spot has been lucky with bad production. The fifth spot has been a black hole. You can win in the playoffs with three great starters as long as you have a closer who shuts the door and an offense that can get something on the board. It's tougher to play dominant ball over a longer period with soft spots at the back end of your rotation. And, the Angels need to play dominant ball the rest of the way if they want to win this division.

That's the past. The games this week will be the present. Let's outline the rest of this race by looking at what both of these teams have on the schedule the rest of the way.

When this series ends, Texas will have played 62 home games and 63 road games. Los Angeles will have played 61 home games and 64 road games. So, the Angels will have a slightly easier time of it in terms of the home road split. What about strength of schedule?  Let's look at what these teams have left after this crucial series ends…

Road: CWS (3), Boston (3), Tampa Bay (3), Seattle (3), Oakland (3), LA Angels (3)
Home: Boston (4), LA Angels (3), Tampa Bay (3), Oakland (3), Cleveland (3), Seattle (3)

Wow, seven games with the best team in baseball Boston, and six with always dangerous Tampa Bay. Cleveland may or not still be in their divisional race by the time that series is played. But, in addition to the usual divisional heavy close to the season, Texas has some real challenges on the card. And, let's be sure to notice that there are still two more additional head-to-head series between Texas and Los Angeles even after this series ends. They'll play a series in Arlington later this month…and then again in Anaheim to finish the regular season.

Road: Texas (3), Seattle (4), Oakland (3), Baltimore (3), Toronto (4)
Home: Baltimore (3), CWS (2), Minnesota (3), Seattle (3), NY Yankees (3), Oakland (3), Texas (3)

No signs of Boston or Tampa Bay. The Yankees are on the slate for three games in Anaheim. The Halos have to make another trip to Toronto where they just struggled this past weekend. Not much separates Boston from the Yankees right now…and not much separates Tampa Bay from Toronto either. So, we're looking at 13 challenge games against the best four teams in the AL East for Texas, and just 7 for the Angels.

That leaves us with these probabilities:

*The AL West will most likely be determined by what happens in the nine head-to-head meetings that remained after Monday Night's series opener. If either team dominates THOSE meetings, the division is probably theirs.

*If nobody dominates those meetings, then what happens against in the challenge games against the AL East will most likely determine the winner. Should Texas hold it's own in all the games against Boston and Tampa Bay…that plus their current lead might be enough. Should Texas have trouble…the softer remaining slate of the Angels may push them over the top.

Frankly…Texas could put the hammer down this week with a sweep that will come close to finishing the race for all intents and purposes (it's hard to come from WAY down in less than 40 games). Or, this race could conceivably come down to the final weekend of the regular season when Texas visits the Angels.

You might be thinking it's too early to call the race if Texas takes three of four. Let's look at the math.

Imagine Texas leads by six games with 37 left on the schedule (which is where we'd be with the Rangers winning three of four). Now, pencil in a .500 type record for the Rangers the rest of the way.

Texas 18-19
LAA 24-13

The Halos would have to pick up 11 more games against the .500 mark to catch a mediocre finish from behind. From a starting point that's only 7 games above .500 to that point in the season. Tough to finish THAT strong with so much at stake…and it's far from guaranteed that Texas would only be around .500 the rest of the way…even with that tough schedule.

Let's say Texas goes a respectable 21-16 the rest of the way. That's a good ballpark estimate actually for a good team that needs to win that's saddled with a tough schedule.

Texas 21-16
LAA 27-10

Could the Angels finish 27-10?! That's why this series is so important for the Halos right now. It's much more difficult than is generally realized to catch a team from behind in a pennant race if that team doesn't collapse to help you out. Based on what we saw last year with Texas, and this year…it's very tough to project any sort of collapse. Los Angeles needs to trim the lead NOW…then outplay the defending AL champs the rest of the way.

Being in synch with pennant race teams has been at the heart of the successful run in recent weeks from JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK. We're likely to have at least one big play in this current Rangers/Angels series. Other matchups we're looking at right now include Tampa Bay/Boston, Cleveland/CWS, Arizona/Philadelphia, San Francisco/Atlanta, and St. Louis/Pittsburgh.

Though we'll be talking mostly about football in the coming days and weeks here in the NOTEBOOK because FOOTBALL IS KING…baseball makes for a nice prince that gets a lot of bling! We hope you'll check in daily to purchase our top releases…which go up a few hours before the first pitch. Great rates are still available for the rest of the season too. In fact, if you sign up for JIM HURLEY'S exhibition football package, BLUE RIBBON baseball is included as a free bonus.

This week's agenda in the NOTEBOOK:
Wednesday: Arizona Diamondbacks
Thursday: NFC East Preview (Philadelphia at Pittsburgh is on FOX)
Friday: NFC South Preview (Atlanta at Jacksonville is on FOX)
Saturday: MAC East Preview (college mid majors continue)
Sunday: MAC West Preview
Monday: NFC North Preview (Chicago at the NY Giants is on ESPN)

Be sure you're with us EVERY DAY so you know what's REALLY going on in the world of sports! And be sure you're earning those DOLLARS OF AUGUST from JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK that will roll over time and time again between now and the Super Bowl!



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