There’s no getting around it, no ifs ands or buts.
The Texas Rangers are the hottest team in baseball.
Will it last? Who knows? But for now, at least, the Rangers are riding high after a 4-2 victory over the defending American League champion Kansas City Royals on Saturday at Kauffman Stadium.
Texas (30-26) clinched its sixth consecutive series win, the longest streak for the club since winning six in a row in August-September 2012.
The Rangers are four games over .500 for the first time since April 28, 2014, and in sole possession of second place in the AL West, 3 1/2 games behind the first-place Astros and tied with Tampa Bay in the wild-card race, just 1 1/2 games behind the Royals.
Things have been heating up for the Rangers, who have won seven of their past eight games, 14 of their past 17 and are an MLB-best 22-10 since May 4. A swagger is starting to form as the wins pile up.
On Saturday, veteran left-hander Wandy Rodriguez continued his remarkable career resurgence with another stout outing. He held the Royals to one run on six hits over seven innings to improve to 3-2 and lower his ERA to 3.25.
The Rangers’ offense staked him to an early 4-0 lead, scoring twice in the first inning and twice in the second.
Texas had four consecutive one-out singles in the first, the third of which was an RBI for Mitch Moreland. Elvis Andrus drove in the other first-inning run with a sacrifice fly.
In the second, Carlos Corporan reached on a hit-by-pitch and Hanser Alberto doubled down the left-field line before Shin-Soo Choo doubled in both with a one-hopper to left-center.
The rookie Alberto had three hits Saturday and has hit safely in seven of his first eight games. Choo, Prince Fielder and Moreland each had two hits.
Rodriguez surrendered his only run in the sixth, ending the Rangers’ season-high streak of 21 consecutive innings without allowing a run. It was the first earned run allowed by Texas in the past 27 innings. Shawn Tolleson gave up a solo homer in the ninth but earned his seventh save in as many attempts.
During the turnaround, the offense has been able to strike for runs up and down the lineup.
“That’s been our whole goal from Day 1, to continue to create opportunities and just take advantage of those,” Moreland said. “That’s been probably the biggest key offensively and the reason for our success, 1 through 9 we find ways to create runs in every part of the lineup.
“Each guy has stepped up, and that speaks volumes of what we’ve done over the past few weeks, just believing in each other and being able to pass it on to the next guy and trust they’re going to come up with the big hit. It’s a lot of fun when you can do that.”
Since rookie Delino DeShields was placed in the leadoff spot on May 22, the offense has stretched out even more and the Rangers have won 12 of14.
“Our offense has a lot of confidence right now,” manager Jeff Banister said. “It’s a complete team effort, it’s guys who are coming up and adding value, contributing.”
The Rangers are 7-1-2 in their past 10 series. Through much of the club’s turnaround, the offense has struck first. Texas has won nine games in a row and is 17-5 when scoring in the first inning.
“I believe it really started as DeShields entered into the equation, and then the complete effort from the bullpen added to that,” Banister said. “Then you saw the starting rotation start to gain a little traction and do what they’ve been doing.”