Richie Whitt's 'Sportatorium' | CBSDFW.COM

Hold on to your seats, because the Texas Rangers are grabbing their throats.

The 2-time defending AL champion Rangers have owned the West Division for 3 years. They’ve been in sole possession of 1st place since April 9. On June 30th they led the Oakland A’s by a whopping 13 games and last Friday the margin was still a seemingly comfortable 4 games.

Don’t look now, but that lead is kaput.

The Rangers – despite 7 more All-Stars and more than double the payroll – are in danger of an epic choke job to a team of which I bet you can’t name 4 players. Having lost in Oakland the last 2 nights, it’s come to this for the Rangers, who have dropped 4 of 5 and 8 of 12:

An AL West Championship Game, today at 2:35. Remarkable.

Baseball again needs more than 6 months and 161 games to decide its playoff participants.

The scenarios:

*If the Rangers win today they will be AL West champs and will start the postseason Saturday in Detroit against the Tigers or Sunday at the AL Wild-Card winner (most likely A’s or Orioles).

*If the Rangers lose today they’ll play a 1-game Wild-Card Game Friday (most likely against the Orioles, either in Baltimore or at Rangers Ballpark).

So today’s game isn’t all-or-nothing – there is life after death – but it’s pretty damn important. Bottom line: After 93 wins and all the season-long success, the Rangers may be 2 road games from having their season end prematurely.

Even more shocking is that the team that’s applying the choke-hold is the A’s. The lowly, low-budget A’s.

Oakland has a payroll of $55 million; Texas $121 million.

Oakland has 14 rookies and just 1 All-Star, reliever Ryan Cook; Texas has World Series experience(s) and 8 All-Stars.

Oakland doesn’t have a .300 hitter, nor a player with more than 90 RBI; Texas has Josh Hamilton and Adrian Beltre.

Oakland doesn’t have a pitcher with more than 13 wins; Texas has Matt Harrison and Yu Darvish.

Oakland has set an AL record for most strikeouts in a season by hitters, made 30 more errors than the Rangers is hitting only .238, 28th out of 30 teams; Texas has scored 102 more runs than the A’s.

The A’s are led by guys named Yoenis Cespedes, Brandon Moss, Jonny Gomes, Josh Reddick, Coco Crisp, Josh Donaldson and Chris Carter. 2 of their best pitchers – Bartolo Colon and Brandon McCarthy – are out for the season due to suspension and injury.

You get the picture. And it ain’t pretty.

How this is happening is inexplicable. It’s surreal.

Only 4 teams have blown 13-game leads to lose a division. The Rangers throw trade-deadline acquisition Ryan Dempster today against A’s rookie A.J. Griffin, who is 7-1 with a 2.71 ERA.

It’s beginning to feel like another Bay Area Bummer isn’t it? In the 2007 NBA Playoffs the Dallas Mavericks were the better team but the Golden State Warriors were the hotter team.

Fasten your seat belt.

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