Let the countdown to an American League West title for the Rangers begin.
They moved to a three-game lead over second-place Houston on Wednesday night with a 10-3 win over moribund Oakland at the O.co Coliseum. Life could hardly be better for this club.
The Rangers are a season-high 13 games over .500 at 82-69. They will send out their best starter, left-hander Cole Hamels, on Thursday afternoon. The Rangers have won Hamels’ last seven starts.
“I don’t care about my individual record as long as I’m going deep into the game and at the end of it I’ve taken care of the job as best I can,” Hamels said. “That’s trying to be a good teammate, doing your job and not for your own glory.”
On Friday, the Rangers begin a three-game series at wheezing Houston, which is 7-14 in September. The Rangers are 14-7 for the month.
This is the Rangers’ largest lead in the West since Aug. 23, 2013, when they held a 3 Â½-game advantage in the West. That carries a caveat.
The 2013 season did not end well. The Rangers went 16-19 for the duration, losing Game No. 163 to Tampa Bay in a playoff for a wild-card spot.
The Rangers continued their remarkable recent success when presented with gift of a runner at third and fewer than two outs. They converted both chances, are 20-of-28 in the last nine games and have an AL-best 60.4 percent success rate.
On Tuesday, the Rangers hit four sacrifice flies. This time, they went over the wall.
The conversions with the runner at third came on three-run homers by Elvis Andrus in the fourth inning and Adrian Beltre in the fifth against left-hander Felix Doubront. He has faced the Rangers twice in the last two weeks and given up five homers, three by Beltre, in nine innings.
For Andrus, it was a memorable homer. It gave him a personal-best of seven for the season and was the first three-run homer of his career.
Andrus’ homer gave the Rangers a 4-1 lead. Beltre’s homer made it 7-1.
Whether it is by a homer, a sacrifice fly or a grounder, the ability to get the runner in from third with fewer than two outs has become a strength of this offense. It represents what first-year manager Jeff Banister began working for in spring training: a balanced offense that could score in many ways.
“We talked about becoming a complete ballclub,” Banister said. “We wanted to be able to have more tools in the toolbox, the capability of doing things when you’re not driving the ball all over the ballpark.”
Banister called it “meeting the demands of the game.” The Rangers have increasingly been able to do that.
“We’re getting more consistent with the little things,” said Beltre, who has driven in a run in 13 of his last 18 chances with a runner at third and fewer than two outs. “It’s a good sign. Definitely encouraging. We have the tools to do it.”
Right-hander Colby Lewis worked six innings for his third win in four starts against Oakland this season.
Lewis had one troublesome inning. The bottom three spots in the Oakland order reached to start the third, giving the Athletics a 1-0 lead.
With two outs and runners at second and third, pitching coach Mike Maddux went to the mound. The discussion seemed to be whom Lewis wanted to face: Josh Reddick or Danny Valencia with the bases loaded.
Actions indicated Lewis wanted Valencia. He walked Reddick but struck out Valencia, throwing five consecutive sliders.
Reddick batted again to start the sixth and homered off Lewis. By then, he was working with a big lead.
Source: Dallas News