Gil LeBreton

Red-hot Rangers hit the road in ‘attack mode’

Rangers Jeff Banister on Martin Perez, Ryan Rua and 8-0 homestand

Rangers manager Jeff Banister discusses ninth consecutive win, Martin Perez's outing and Ryan Rua's three-run homer (Video by Stefan Stevenson).
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Rangers manager Jeff Banister discusses ninth consecutive win, Martin Perez's outing and Ryan Rua's three-run homer (Video by Stefan Stevenson).

The homestand is over.

Baseball’s hottest team, the Texas Rangers, traded in the Phillies for suitcases Thursday afternoon.

But know this, catcher Jonathan Lucroy said, as the Rangers packed for a three-city, nine-game road trip:

“We’re in attack mode right now.”

Gee. And 10 days ago, we were wondering if these so-called attackers had any teeth at all.

The Rangers’ 8-4 bludgeoning of the Philadelphia Phillies on Thursday was their ninth victory in a row, longest in the majors this season.

True, none of the nine conquests were over the Houston Astros, who appear to be on a scorched-earth march to the World Series.

But last time I checked, wins over San Diego, Oakland and Philadelphia still count. Early in the season, the Rangers were losing to teams like the Phillies and Padres.

“I just think guys got tired of losing,” Lucroy said. “We made adjustments within the box and on the mound, and guys stepped up.

“I just think it was a refusal of us as a team to keep doing what we were doing. It was an aggressive, team-wide, organized mindset change.”

Lucroy was so tired of his slow start, he raised his batting average from .214 to .274 during the homestand. Right fielder Nomar Mazara batted .440 (11 for 25). Designated hitter Shin-Soo Choo, sidelined by back spasms last weekend, returned to the lineup and has reached base six of his last nine at-bats.

I just think guys got tired of losing.

Rangers catcher Jonathan Lucroy

It started, in a way, with game-winning, three-run home runs on back-to-back nights by Mike Napoli and Joey Gallo.

“The comeback wins early in the homestand gave these guys a little extra energy, some confidence,” manager Jeff Banister said.

“It’s the mindset of what the offense was able to do ... whether it was runners in motion, drawing walks, laying the ball on the ground, some hit-and-runs, just getting back to the mindset of pass the baton, take a professional at-bat, be tough in the box, and then we had some walks that really gave us the extra base runners.”

All the stuff, in other words, that the Rangers so poorly executed in the season’s first five weeks.

The lineup was too good and the Rangers’ career numbers too deep to expect them to bat a collective .215 all season.

What ignited the turnaround?

“Hard work,” said Mazara.

“Momentum . . . confidence,” Lucroy said.

The lineup was too good and the Rangers’ career numbers too deep to expect them to bat a collective .215 all season. The team batting average is still low, .236, but after Thursday’s game only the Yankees and Astros in the American League have scored more runs (202).

And this is without Adrian Beltre, who is yet to play a game.

A tough road trip begins Friday night against the Tigers. The Rangers will play three-game series in Detroit, Boston and Toronto.

But that’s not necessarily the death sentence that some might think. Since Banister took over two seasons ago, the Rangers are 11-9 in those three cities during the regular season.

The Rangers were 13-20 nine games ago. But now Banister’s team is 22-20 and can focus on the road ahead, not the beckoning gravediggers behind it.

Two years ago after 42 games, the Rangers were 19-23. Last year’s AL West champs were 23-19, only one game worse than the record they will take to Detroit.

They’re in attack mode, the All-Star catcher said.

The road trip should tell.

Gil LeBreton: @gilebreton

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