SAN DIEGO -- Consecutive three-game sweeps have the Texas Rangers on a six-game winning streak, and the two-time defending American League champions have won nine of 10 games to push their record to 16 games over .500.
Yet, to a man, Rangers players and their manager say the club is not playing its best baseball.
That may or may not make the 13 other AL teams shudder, but the Rangers see room for improvement after beating National League cellar-dweller San Diego 4-2 on Wednesday at Petco Park.
Yu Darvish allowed two runs in eight innings, and the Rangers scored three of their four runs without an RBI hit to match the 1996 division-winning club for the best record after 70 games at 43-27.
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But they say they can be better.
"We're playing good baseball, but we're not playing our best," manager Ron Washington said. "Believe me, it can get better."
Darvish got better after his mound counterpart, Anthony Bass, delivered a two-run single just inside the first-base line in the second inning. Darvish allowed only two more hits as he found his rhythm and attacked the strike zone.
Darvish threw 81 of his season-high 122 pitches for strikes, and finished with eight strikeouts and three walks.
"Mentally and physically and mechanically there was no difference," he said of his recovery after the second inning. "It was just getting into the rhythm of the game that allowed that."
Darvish (9-4) worked eight innings for the second straight game and matched Matt Harrison for the team lead in victories. He has pitched well in three of his past four starts and said that he can extend the run of success if he remains dedicated to his workouts between outings.
He felt strong physically against the Padres, and told Washington and pitching coach Mike Maddux not to worry about his early pitch count and let him work deep into the game.
"He just started pounding the strike zone," Washington said. "The sixth, seventh and eighth innings were innings that a good pitcher shows you that he's not going to be denied. Once we took the lead, it was over."
Alberto Gonzalez delivered a two-out RBI single in the fifth after David Murphy had walked and swiped second base with one out. The Rangers took the lead in the sixth with a rally that started with a one-out single by Michael Young and a double by Josh Hamilton.
The runs, though, came on a forceout after Nelson Cruz just beat a throw to complete a double play and a bases-loaded walk to Yorvit Torrealba.
Ian Kinsler walked with one out in the seventh and stole second and third base with Young at the plate. Young delivered a sacrifice fly to cap a satisfying day for the offense.
"When an offense can generate runs without getting hits, it's pretty important," Kinsler said. "It's good that we're getting chances, and just because you don't get a big hit are able to produce runs."
That's what good teams do, but the Rangers believe they can be better.
"We're a good team, and we have a lot of really good players," Kinsler said. "As long as our pitching keeps us in games, as Yu did today, we're going to have a chance to win."
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760