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Halos look to fend off West rivals in WC race

Angels to meet Rangers, Mariners a combined 15 times down stretch
MLB.com @mi_guardado

ANAHEIM -- Entering Monday, the Angels had held a playoff spot for nine consecutive days -- no small feat given the crowded and ever-changing landscape of the American League Wild Card race.

But after falling to the Rangers, 5-3, in Monday's opener at Angel Stadium, the Angels were knocked from their coveted perch for the first time since Aug. 12, dropping a half-game behind the Twins for the second Wild Card spot. The Rangers, meanwhile, moved within two games of the final AL playoff slot by taking the first of 10 games they will play against the Angels between now and the end of the season.

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ANAHEIM -- Entering Monday, the Angels had held a playoff spot for nine consecutive days -- no small feat given the crowded and ever-changing landscape of the American League Wild Card race.

But after falling to the Rangers, 5-3, in Monday's opener at Angel Stadium, the Angels were knocked from their coveted perch for the first time since Aug. 12, dropping a half-game behind the Twins for the second Wild Card spot. The Rangers, meanwhile, moved within two games of the final AL playoff slot by taking the first of 10 games they will play against the Angels between now and the end of the season.

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"This loss is on me," said left-hander Tyler Skaggs, who surrendered five runs (four earned) over 5 1/3 innings. "I wanted to really go out there and make a good start for my team. From the first batter, it just wasn't meant to be. I gave it 110 percent, battled through six. It is what it is."

Video: TEX@LAA: Skaggs whiffs Andrus in the 1st inning

The Astros have built a commanding 12 1/2-game lead in the AL West, but there remains plenty of intrigue within the division because of the nature of the Wild Card race. The Angels, Rangers and Mariners are among the seven clubs that are currently within four games of a playoff spot, adding extra stakes to their division matchups down the stretch.

"We both know we are obviously hunting for the same stuff," Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre said. "We are chasing them. It's going to be a tough situation for us to climb up the Wild Card, but we have to do it by winning series."

Of the Angels' final 37 games, nine will come against the Rangers and six will come against the Mariners. Each is likely to carry Wild Card implications, though manager Mike Scioscia has shied away from putting too much importance on any particular series, instead emphasizing the need to play well regardless of the opponent.

"There's always a sense of urgency throughout the season," Scioscia said Monday. "You want to play well on every given day. As far as putting playoff game monikers right now, I think it's too early. Every game is going to be important, no doubt. But we still have a long way to go."

The Angels vaulted into playoff position a week and a half ago behind their four-game sweep of the Mariners at Safeco Field. Skaggs said he's confident his team will be able to continue its push for the postseason by delivering another strong series against the Rangers.

"We're just playing baseball, taking it day by day," he said. "We just had a huge series in Seattle. We played well, no pressure. It's just one of those things. You win some, you lose some. But I'm sure we'll take the series."

Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com.

Los Angeles Angels