This season, that may be a bit more important than in the past, as it not only guarantees home-field advantage, but it also means they'll be playing the winner of the Wild Card game, who could be without their ace after a winner-take-all contest.
A win in Thursday's series finale at Kauffman Stadium would certainly help the Rangers in their quest for that top spot. But they haven't exactly flourished against the Royals this season, having split eight games.
Kansas City will be looking for its first season series victory over Texas since taking five of nine from the Rangers in 2007.
Right-hander Scott Feldman gets the ball for Texas, making his 200th career appearance and 99th career start. He's already had both a six-game losing streak and a six-game winning streak this season, and now he's on another five-game skid, making him the only pitcher in baseball with two losing streaks of five games or more.
"I feel the same as I did in the winning streak," said Feldman, who is 6-11 with a 5.01 ERA. "I feel fine. It's like hitting or any part of baseball. Some things are out of your control. All you can worry about is executing your pitches. If I can do that, the end result will turn around. Hopefully I can get back on a winning streak and finish strong."
Feldman is now 2-5 with a 6.19 ERA in eight starts and three relief appearances on the road. He retired 18 of the last 20 batters he faced last time out against Cleveland after allowing four runs in the first inning.
Feldman's counterpart, Royals right-hander Luke Hochevar (7-13, 5.34 ERA) is coming off similar early struggles against the Twins. He exited after 1 2/3 innings, during which he allowed eight runs on six hits and four walks.
"It wasn't good," said Hochevar, who allowed home runs to Chris Parmelee and Joe Mauer. "I came inside on Parmelee and tried to elevate up-and-in on Mauer, and they both got the head out and caught them both. That's where the damage was done -- and, obviously, falling behind and walking guys."
Rangers: Ross on the mend
Lefty reliever Robbie Ross headed to Texas on Wednesday to have his strained left forearm examined by Dr. Keith Meister.
Ross, who is 6-0 with a 1.78 ERA and is eligible to return from the DL on Sept. 14, is hopeful he'll begin throwing on Thursday. The Rangers expect him back before the end of the season.
"He has been a big piece for us," said manager Ron Washington, who praised the performance of left-hander Michael Kirkman, Ross's replacement as the club's top lefty out of the 'pen. "But Kirkman has certainly stepped up."
Royals: Carter likes role as 'pen coach
Larry Carter, the pitching coach for the Royals' Double-A affiliate, Northwest Arkansas, took over as the bullpen coach for the big league club on Tuesday, after the Naturals' season ended.
"I've been around a bunch of these guys, most everybody in here anyway, for quite some time," Carter said. "I've seen them come through the Minor Leagues or have been a part of everything that these guys have gone through. So it's good to be up here and be around these guys. It's good to be back up here in the Major Leagues and get some experience just trying to help out anyway I can, really."
Doug Henry, the pitching coach for Triple-A Omaha, will take over for Carter after his club's season ends.
In 13 at-bats against Hochevar, Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre is hitting .385 with three doubles. Michael Young has had similar success, notching five hits in 10 at-bats. Second baseman Ian Kinsler, on the other hand, is 0-for-11 against the Royals right-hander.
A win on Thursday would clinch a fourth consecutive winning season for Texas, marking the first time in franchise history that the club has won 82 games or more four seasons in a row.