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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, July 1, 2012 at 12:40 PM

The Texas Rangers have been making the most of a very soft schedule lately…in a season where they’ve enjoyed the easiest schedule from start to present day of any American League contenders. Saturday Night’s 7-2 victory over the Oakland A’s, made it 5-straight wins for Texas. They’re also 13-2 their last 15 games, all of which have come against teams that currently have losing records (Houston, San Diego, Colorado, Detroit, Oakland).

Heading into Sunday’s action, here’s the total of games played vs. teams under .500 this season for various American League contenders:

Texas 43

Chicago White Sox 38

LA Angels 34

Cleveland 34

Boston 33

Tampa Bay 28

NY Yankees 23

Toronto 22

Baltimore 14

In an era of unbalanced schedules, it’s possible for some teams to win the lottery in terms of good fortune while others are stuck in quicksand all year. Texas and the LA Angels are in the AL West. They have two of the three highest totals on that chart (and the Rangers’ lead will increase after Sunday because they’re still playing Oakland!). The brutal AL East has a lot of games against each other. Poor Baltimore! They’ve only played 14 games against losing teams all year! Texas has played more games against losing teams in the last 2.5 weeks than Baltimore has played in more than 2.5 months.

We don’t want to suggest that Texas is an illusion. They are CRUSHING bad teams lately after all. And, they’re winning games against good teams too:

Texas vs. Winners: 22-14 (.611)

Texas vs. Losers: 28-15 (.651)

Hey, 43 games vs. losers and 36 games vs. winners isn’t exactly Wisconsin’s non-conference college football schedule. The Rangers haven’t been given a full season gift by any means. But, they did have it much easier through Interleague play than most, and the AL West is clearly much weaker than the AL East from top to bottom. As you try to rate the true strengths and weakness of AL teams as you map out the pennant race, it’s important to keep schedule strength in mind. Texas may not be quite as good as they seem once it’s time to step up in class. AL East teams can get stuck in the octagon for weeks at a time.

Up ahead for Texas:

Tonight: home vs. Oakland

Tuesday-Thursday: at Chicago White Sox (potential playoff preview?)

Friday-Sunday: at Minnesota

All-Star Break

Let’s see how Texas handles their Windy City Challenge this week. Their best tests after the break will come in multiple big series against the Angels and then road trips to the NY Yankees and Boston in August. The Rangers are currently on pace for 102-103 victories and top seed in the AL playoff brackets. Unless the AL East collapses in a way that pushes the Yankees over the top, it looks like two-time defending AL champion Texas will be in strong position to defend its crown once again.

The champions of handicapping are gathered right here at VegasSportsmasters. Hopefully you’ve already taken care of business for Sunday baseball (including Kelso Sturgeon’s first 100-Unit play of the 2012 baseball season that we alerted you to yesterday). Sunday afternoon provides a great opportunity to sign up for early-bird football packages.

Jim Hurley’s “Dollars of August” Preseason package goes for just $69

Wayne Root’s Preseason Program is just $75

Kelso Sturgeon’s NFL Exhibition Package is just $99

July is here, which means August is just around the corner. The NFL Preseason begins this year on Sunday Night August 5th with Arizona vs. New Orleans in the Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio.

Be sure you remember to check the ads on the home page every day for big play blockbusters. Complete details on each industry legends’ slate are available on the “buy picks” pulldown. Hot handicappers are always waiting to hear from you!

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