MINNEAPOLIS — There's no way to look at the schedule for the final three weeks of the season and not see that the A's have a sizable advantage over the Texas Rangers in the battle for the American League West title.
You could bring up the subject with A's manager Bob Melvin and he would say simply: "It doesn't (matter) to me."
At some level, however, it does matter. The A's have six series left, a total of 19 games. Only one, a three-game set in Texas at the end of the trip that starts today in Minneapolis, comes against a team with a .500 record or better.
The A's have two series left with the Minnesota Twins and the Los Angeles Angels and one with the Seattle Mariners, none of them close to being contenders.
Going into a game Monday night against the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Rangers have six series and 20 games left, and the first four of those Texas series come against teams with winning records — Pittsburgh, Oakland, Tampa Bay and Kansas City. Of those, the first three have playoff aspirations.
The A's will tell you however it's not as cut and dried as all that. For one thing, the A's have seven home games but 12 on the road. The Rangers have 13 games at home and seven on the road.
For another, in the past month, Oakland has played much of its best baseball against the better teams it's faced. The A's sometimes have trouble playing their best against the lesser lights, although they rallied to beat Houston three straight over the weekend after the Astros flattened them on Thursday.
"You can look at the schedule and see we play more sub-.500 teams," shortstop Jed Lowrie said. "What that means, though, is that we have to take care of business and beat the teams that we should beat. We can't be letting our guard down, because these teams can beat you."
Right fielder Brandon Moss looks at the schedule with the same enthusiasm as he would have surveying a thicket of poison ivy.
"It's a mirage that those teams we're going to be playing have sub-.500 records," Moss said. "The Mariners play as good against us as anybody. The Angels should have a much better record than they do. They've got the talent for it."
Third baseman Josh Donaldson, who should be back in the lineup Tuesday after getting Sunday off to deal with a right quadriceps strain, takes the view that the schedule doesn't matter.
And to support his case, he looks at the 2012 A's.
"We had the tougher schedule down the stretch last September," Donaldson said of the A's dynamic charge to win the A.L. West title on the final day of the season by beating Texas. "But we won. So it doesn't mean that much.
"And if you don't take every team seriously, it will hurt you. Take the first game (Thursday) of the series (with the Astros). I'm not saying we looked past them, but any team can beat you if you're not at your best."
The great unknown in the schedule from the Oakland point of view is the Twins. Minnesota is the one American League team the A's haven't played yet this year. And the Twins are going younger, having just traded Justin Morneau to the Pirates in an effort to shed salary and rebuild organizational depth.