The Texas Rangers are playing with swagger and nobody has more swagger right now than Prince Fielder.
Fielder continued his torrid hitting pace with three more hits — including another home run, his 10th of the season and fifth in the past five games — as the Rangers won their seventh consecutive game, all on the road, in a 4-3 victory over the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field.
The Rangers (23-23) are at .500 for the first time since they were 3-3 on April 11.
“It’s been a complete team effort through all seven,” manager Jeff Banister said. “The pitching we’re getting and the timely hitting ... and the bullpen, another exceptional night for those guys coming out and putting zeroes on the board for us.”
Tanner Scheppers, Keone Kela and Ross Ohlendorf combined for 2 2/3 scoreless innings in relief of Wandy Rodriguez, who allowed three runs in 5 1/3. Shawn Tolleson earned his fifth save, all on the current road trip.
Texas goes for its second straight sweep at 11:10 a.m. Wednesday.
The mood in the clubhouse has lightened as a wave of confidence has washed over the team. It’s not just in one area, either. The starting pitching has mostly remained sturdy, and the bullpen has steadily improved. The offense, led by Fielder, has begun to display the firepower Banister hoped it would have in spring training.
“I think all of it plays together,” Banister said. “It’s a lot more fun to play when you’re winning games.”
Wins have been coming regularly for the Rangers. They have their longest winning streak since September 2014, when Tim Bogar temporarily took over for Ron Washington after Washington abruptly left the team for personal reasons.
Texas has won 11 of its past 16 games and entered Tuesday batting an American League-best .276 as a team in May.
The offense that often struggled to score runs in the first month of the season is now tied for fifth in the majors with 206 runs scored through Monday’s game.
Fielder, of course, has been the centerpiece of the surge, and he’s now hitting a major league-best .371. After a 56-minute rain delay Tuesday night, he erased a 3-0 Indians lead with a first-pitch, three-run homer to right field in the fifth inning. It was a hanging breaking ball from Indians starter Danny Salazar.
Some of Fielder’s heat has been transferring to his teammates — including Mitch Moreland, who gave the Rangers a 4-3 lead with a solo blast in the eighth off Nick Hagadone. It was Moreland’s first homer off a left-hander since September 2013.
Elvis Andrus had a double in his first three-hit game of the season. His sluggish batting average has crept up to .247 for the first time since the second game of the season.
“Hot bats are contagious, because guys feel comfortable and are confident to go into the batter’s box,” Banister said.
Just as negative vibes permeated and worked against the Rangers during their 7-15 start, the positive vibes are contagious.
“Losing is contagious, winning is contagious,” Banister said. “You have to pitch the ball well to keep your team in the game.
“When you’re pitching well, your defense is better. And when you’re pitching well, your defense is good, you’re getting your guys back in the dugout quicker, so there’s less time in between at-bats. Hot bats stay hot the more often they get to go to the plate.”
Reaching the .500 mark isn’t much of a milestone for Banister or his players.
Instead, Banister said, it’s just a necessary marker to reach the team’s ultimate goal — the postseason.
“The day we start worrying about if we’re .500 or one game over .500 or below .500 really goes against the concept that we’ve set out all spring training,” he said. “Ultimately, you set out to win the game today, with the idea that your end goal is to get into the playoffs.”
Stefan Stevenson, 817-390-7760