ARLINGTON -- The margin of error has shrunk over the week for the Rangers to grab a Wild Card spot. The Rays and Indians won six straight games entering Thursday, and despite the three-game sweep over the Astros, the Rangers gained just half a game on the Indians for the second Wild Card.
If the standings hold firm after Sunday's games, A.J. Pierzynski could possibly go through his third season with a 90-win club that didn't play postseason games, an experience he doesn't want to happen.
"It's tough, but at the end of the year you can always look back and think about this game or that game or this at-bat or that at-bat," Pierzynski said. "It's a hard way to go through the offseason, but hopefully it doesn't happen."
As a member of the Giants in 2004, Pierzynski went 91-71 but didn't make the playoffs. The White Sox went 90-72 in 2006 following their World Series season and finished third in the American League Central to miss the postseason. The Rangers were 87-71 before Thursday's game against the Angels, sitting a game behind the Indians for the final Wild Card spot with four games left to play.
"It's still a successful year, but at the end of the day the goal is to get to the playoffs and win the World Series," Pierzynski said. "There's only one team that's happy at the end of the year."
Martin getting more comfortable in center field
ARLINGTON -- Leonys Martin has been working on robbing a home run in the outfield, and he thought his dream came true Wednesday when he attempted to bring back a fly ball to center field from Houston's Brandon Laird.
Martin said the ball hit his glove, but he couldn't haul it in. He sat on the warning track disappointed that he missed his chance to accomplish the defensive feat.
"I felt the ball touch my glove, and if you feel the ball, you're going to make the catch," Martin said. "Someday, you never know when you're going to catch your first home run. Don't be scared, but you never know. Maybe in the World Series. Who knows?"
Martin said he works on the timing aspect of robbing a home run during batting practice and also understands where he needs to be positioned to leap against the wall.
"I thought he had a chance at it, but when he sat on the ground, I knew he didn't have it," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "Because when you make a catch like that, you're not sitting down on the ground. You're rolling, you're jumping up having a good time."
It's a minor, and perhaps rare, detail for an outfielder to work on, but Martin feels comfortable as the everyday center fielder. He's described this season as an important year in his life to prove what he can do at the big league level. He's improved on understanding his positioning in certain situations or against certain hitters. Third-base coach Gary Pettis sat down with the rookie and showed him charts with tendencies of each batter and certain situations and explained why he'd shifted Martin around in center field.
"When Martin saw those charts, a light went off," Washington said. "For the last seven or eight ballgames, Gary hasn't had to do anything with him. He'll come and get the chart from Gary now, and he reads it himself. It took him all year to get to that point because the guy was in survival mode."
Washington won't waver from Perez in tiebreaker
ARLINGTON -- If the Rangers would need to play a tiebreaker game on Monday to decide one of the American League Wild Card spots, Martin Perez would be in the line to make the start. Rangers manager Ron Washington doesn't plan to change that if the situation occurs.
"It's another challenge and experience for him to get," Washington said. "He deserves it, just like every other starter in there deserves it. I don't think the position we're in, if we play this out and we have that opportunity, that we can move anything around. It's got to stay the way it is."
Perez moved to 10-5 on Wednesday night, allowing three runs in seven innings against the Astros to help the Rangers remain a game behind the Indians for the final American League Wild Card spot. The rookie has pitched well since he was recalled from Triple-A Round Rock to help a battered starting rotation. Washington said the 22-year-old doesn't express his emotions as vividly now on the mound and remains composed.
"He's getting the results of his own doing, he really is," Washington said. "We have to remind him every now and then, but that's OK. I think it'll come to the point where we don't have to remind him anymore and he can be his own critic and self-sufficient. I think, in the game of baseball, that's what you try to do with players."
Rangers know what to expect from rivals in final set
ARLINGTON -- The Angels aren't in the playoff hunt this season, but there's no expectation from the Rangers that the final regular-season series will be easy. Los Angeles has won its last five series and holds a 16-9 record in September.
"It's going to be tough, they have a great team," Elvis Andrus said. "They've always been a challenge for us every time we face them. We've swept them before, and that's what I hope for this series."
The Rangers swept the Angels the last time the two teams played at Rangers Ballpark on three consecutive walk-off home runs on July 29-31, and then won Thursday night on Jurickson Profar's walk-off shot. To win all four games in that manner this week would be highly unlikely, but the Rangers know a loss to the Angels would damage any thoughts of a postseason game. They expect the Angels to play spoilers as they seek their fourth consecutive October bid.
"They're all professionals, and they're all baseball players," A.J. Pierzynski said. "It doesn't matter who you play. I think people look at the schedule and think, 'Oh they're playing this team or that team.' At the end of the day, these guys are all prideful people. There's good players on every team, and any day a pitcher can go out and beat you. It's just about doing what we can do, and that's it."
• TBS Broadcaster Ron Darling said Thursday he believes the Rangers never really got over what happened in the 2011 World Series.
Said Darling, "They have been so good so long, what I see is, they were one pitch, one out, one catch away from celebrating to having their hearts broken. Occasionally what happens is, it makes it difficult to recapture that magical moment. You have that kismet or karma, what baseball gives you. You said, 'Boy that was our moment,' and you let it pass you by."
• The Rangers' 82 stolen bases since the All-Star break lead the Majors. Their 141 steals are the fifth most in club history.
• The Rangers have hit a home run in four straight games after connecting in just two of their previous 13 games.
Master Tesfatsion is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.