Once the game started Sunday afternoon, the early-morning drama brought on by Nelson Cruz and Matt Garza went away, and the Texas Rangers played the type of game Ron Washington envisioned his teams would play when he took over as manager.
Pitching, defense and timely hitting was the formula Washington stressed from the day he was hired in October 2006, and the Rangers delivered all three in the series finale against Oakland.
Derek Holland struck out 10 in eight scoreless innings. Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre each made at least one solid play in the infield, and Nelson Cruz and Mitch Moreland hit home runs as the Rangers rolled to a 4-0 victory.
The win gave Washington more than any other manager in franchise history, a footnote that wasn’t lost on his players. They showered him with beer and presented him with the ball from the final out to mark an achievement that solidifies his place in club lore.
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“I came in here as a novice, a guy who had never managed at the major league level,” Washington said.
“In seven years I’ve become the winningest manager in Texas Rangers history. It does mean a lot, but any time you’re successful in life, there’s always people that help you get there.
“The organization gave me a chance. They supplied me with the players. My coaches handed out the mandate that I wanted and the way I wanted to play the game. The players bought into it, and we’re winning ballgames.”
Washington has 582 wins, one more than Bobby Valentine, and sees “a lot more ahead.” He should easily clear 600 this year and should approach 700 next season in the final year of his contract.
The win also moved the Rangers within 2 1/2 games of the A’s in the American League West after taking 2 of 3 games over the weekend. Ultimately, a world championship is Washington’s No. 1 goal.
“We still want to get that World Series title under his belt,” Kinsler said. “Regardless of records, that’s the most important thing to him.”
It was fitting that Kinsler, the only player who has been around for all 582 wins, contributed with his glove. He robbed Josh Reddick of an RBI single in the second inning by diving to his right to snare a grounder headed for center field.
Andrus contributed in the next inning, going into the hole to take a hit from Jed Lowrie. Andrus and Kinsler turned double plays to end the eighth inning and the game.
Holland (9-6) kept his defense in the game by working quickly and attacking the strike zone. He allowed only four hits and walked just two as he won his sixth straight road game.
“I wanted to make sure I kept my defense on their toes,” Holland said. “And if they got any runs for me, I wanted to make sure I shut the door right away.”
Holland’s and Andrus’ contributions were also an added bonus to Washington’s landmark win. Those two players have been watched more closely by Washington than any others during Washington’s six-plus seasons.
They’ve grown under Washington, who has also grown as a manager.
“We have a really strong relationship,” Holland said. “He’s been a great guy for me. He’s been a strong leader to me, and I’ve loved playing for him. This is a big achievement for him, and it was good for me to do that for him.”
Said Andrus: “He’s one of the reasons for me to feel so comfortable when I jumped into the big leagues. He’s a great teacher. He just wants you to go out there and play 100 percent. When you do that, you’re going to do everything possible to make him proud.”
Beltre got the scoring started on a day when some shaky A’s defense fueled the Rangers. He contributed an RBI single after Yoenis Cespedes dropped a Kinsler fly ball with two outs in the first inning.
Cruz, linked to the Biogenesis case and playing perhaps his final game with the Rangers, homered to start the second, and Moreland delivered a two-run shot with two outs in the seventh after another missed fielding chance for Oakland.
First baseman Nate Freiman ran and slid to catch a Craig Gentry popup in the vast foul territory at O.co Coliseum, but couldn’t hang onto the ball. Gentry then reached on an infield single to keep the inning alive for Moreland.
Joe Nathan finished off the A’s two innings later, with help up the middle, and moved Washington to the top of the Rangers’ managerial wins list.
“He’s going to get a lot more,” Kinsler said. “It’s not going to stop here.”