The race for the AL West is tighter at this point than it was last season but that has more to do with the Oakland A's than the Texas Rangers. Not only are they at the top of the AL West, but they also both sit on top of the American League and the gap is widening.

With seven games left between the two teams over the last week and a half this division will for once be decided in head to head competition instead of the winner coasting into the playoffs and that's a good thing, both for the teams and for baseball.

Barring a turn of events that would make last season look normal, the Rangers and A's will both be in the playoffs. One will win the West and perhaps the top seed throughout the American League playoffs, the other will play in the wild card play-in game and would likely be favored to win and advance.

In other words, both of these teams are very very good.

The Rangers are coming off deep postseason runs the past two seasons and as remarkable as those runs were, this year's Rangers going into the stretch drive have to be happy with the work of the top four starters in the rotation.

Matt Harrison just picked up win number 17 and with three possible starts left could find himself in the 20 win club.

Derek Holland has stabilized after a rocky middle of the season following a vicious stomach flu that zapped all the strength out of his arm.

Ryan Dempster had troubles of his own following that deadline deal with the Cubs but lately has been on a roll the Rangers envisioned when they pulled the trigger on the deal.

Then there's Yu Darvish who was unhittable in April and May before struggling with his fastball command in the middle of the season yet here we are in September and Darvish seems to have found it again.

Should the Rangers hold off those pesky A's and punch their ticket to a third straight Division Series appearance, those four pitchers will be on the hill and if their September performance thus far is any indication, Rangers fans should be very comfortable with that group.

September and October are when the true "gamers" in baseball play at their best and that is exactly what the Rangers are getting from their top four starters.

Matt Harrison is the key to the Rangers World Series puzzle.

He's been the ace on this staff all season long and it would be shocking if he's not the one that leads the Rangers the rest of the way.

Of all the starters in this rotation, Harrison has been by far the most consistent all season long. Sure, he's had a few hiccups along the way, but none of them were for an extended period of time.

Simply put, Harrison is better than he was a year ago.

Derek Holland hasn't been as consistent as the Rangers were hoping for after signing him to an extension over the winter, but just like last year, he's putting together a nice push in September and has for the moment anyway, regained his form from last season and we all know how that worked out.

Yu Darvish replaced CJ Wilson in the Rangers rotation and you'll be hard pressed to find anyone that wouldn't rather have Darvish in October than Wilson.

Don't get me wrong, I get he has to produce in October and that has not been proven yet, but the bar Wilson has set for Darvish in postseason play is rather low.

We've seen Darvish at his best and at his worst and over his past few starts he's been building toward showing his best again. That's trouble for the rest of the league and make no mistake about it, Darvish in the rotation is better than Wilson in the rotation a year ago.

Ryan Dempster was acquired for one very important reason, the Rangers needed to replace Colby Lewis in the rotation.

Is Dempster better than Lewis?

Hard to say but I know he's not a step backward either.

Dempster has been on a roll and the Rangers will definitely need him to produce in October just like Lewis has done the past two seasons.

Dempster isn't Lewis, but he's just as good and the rotation around him is better than the Rangers rotation around Lewis a year ago.

Have you spotted the theme yet?

The Rangers rotation is better than a year ago and as I've always said, if these four pitchers are on the Rangers are a very tough team to beat.

Just look at what the Rangers did the first few weeks of the season.

They repeat that over the next six weeks and Rangers fans may finally be able to forget about being a strike away.