OAKLAND -- The Rangers are in rarefied territory. They have their first three-game winning streak of the season and, perhaps more significantly, they snapped a seven-game losing streak. In doing so, they did all the things right that they seemed to do wrong on the last road trip. They outplayed the other team defensively, they executed their situational hitting and they got clutch pitching performances, especially from starter Vicente Padilla and reliever Joaquin Benoit. All that and Josh Hamilton's breathtaking catch in center field carried the Rangers to a 4-3 victory over the Athletics at McAfee Coliseum on Friday night in the first game of their seven-game road trip to Oakland and Seattle. The last time the Rangers were on the road they won two in Toronto but then lost four in Boston and three in Detroit.
Since then, with Friday's victory and a successful six-game homestand, they have won five of their past seven games, including three in a row. "We just have to continue to play good baseball," manager Ron Washington said. "If we continue to play good baseball, there might be more than just three in a row." The Rangers certainly played better defense than the Athletics, who committed four errors that led to two unearned runs. That's usually been the Rangers' downfall. But the Rangers didn't waste those chances given to them, and Washington thought it was significant that all four runs were brought home without the benefit of a hit. Michael Young and Brandon Boggs both picked up an RBI on sacrifice flies, Ian Kinsler drove in another with a well-placed grounder and Ramon Vazquez's aggressive baserunning led to a throwing error by first baseman Daric Barton that brought home what ultimately proved to be the game-winning run. "That's called playing baseball," Washington said. "That's what you have to do against pitching. Oakland's pitching is always good and ours is showing up. When that happens, that's how you get runs. It's called playing baseball." The Rangers' ability to manufacture runs helped make a winner out of Padilla, who went 5 2/3 innings to get his second straight victory. He is now 4-2 with a 3.50 ERA after seven starts. But he would have gone unrewarded if not for Hamilton and Benoit. Padilla left with a 4-3 lead after Jamey Wright bailed him out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth by getting Donnie Murphy on a grounder to end the inning. Eddie Guardado took over in the seventh, giving up a leadoff single to Barton and then getting Jack Hannahan on a popup. That brought up Jack Cust, who had hit a home run to left-center off Padilla in the fourth. This time he crushed one to deep right-center. "I killed it," Cust said. "I thought it was a home run, then I thought it was a double, then ..." Then Hamilton raced deep into right-center and ran down the ball right before crashing into the wall. By that time, Barton was pulling into third base. "Cust had hit that one to left-center, so we were shading him to left-center," Hamilton said. "We were also playing 'no doubles,' so we were playing him deep. When he hit it, I just picked out a spot and ran there." Barton was an easy out to complete the double play while the Rangers were waiting in their dugout with high-fives for Hamilton. "That saved the game for us right there," Washington said. "I can't say enough about that guy," Guardado said. "He is something special. When one of your teammates makes a play like that in the late innings, it really pumps you up." Benoit took over for Guardado in the eighth inning and that's supposed to be the master plan. Benoit pitches the eighth, C.J. Wilson pitches the ninth and the Rangers go celebrate. But the master plan has been off-kilter for the past few weeks as Benoit came into the game having allowed nine runs in his previous 5 1/3 innings. He still created some drama on Friday by giving up a one-out single to Emil Brown and then a two-out walk to Bobby Crosby. Then he faced outfielder Ryan Sweeney, who was 10-for-27 on the season with runners in scoring position. But Benoit, after missing twice with changeups, struck him out with a fastball to end the threat and left the rest for Wilson. It's only the third time the Rangers have won in Benoit's past nine appearances. "I still have to work on some stuff, but this was one of my best games in a long time," Benoit said. It's just all part of a three-game winning streak.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.