ARLINGTON -- They pitched, they played defense, they played hard and they played the game. They did everything manager Ron Washington expects from his team, and now they have done something they haven't been done since Johnny Oates was the skipper of this baseball team. The Rangers assured themselves of their sixth straight series win with a 5-2 victory over the Mariners at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on Tuesday night. The Rangers can complete the sweep with a victory in the third and final game of the series on Wednesday afternoon.
In their previous five series, the Rangers have taken two of three in four of those series and three of four against the Mariners last week in Seattle. This the first time the Rangers have won six straight series since they won seven in a row in the summer of 1999, the year Oates led the team to the third of three division titles. "We're just playing the way we're capable of playing," second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "Everybody in this clubhouse knew we had a good club, even though everybody else doubted us. I don't know how many series we have to win for people to believe in us, but we're going to be around the whole year." One more victory against the Mariners might open some eyes. The Rangers have won 13 of their last 18 games and are just one game under .500. On April 24, they were 7-16 after losing seven straight games on a road trip to Boston and Detroit. "Getting to .500 in itself doesn't mean anything," shortstop Michael Young said. "But it's huge to get to .500 so quickly, considering where we were after that road trip. To get back to .500 would be huge in the middle of May. But we know bigger things are ahead of us." Texas might just achieve those bigger things with more games like this. Pitching. Defense. Hustle. Execution. Go through any manager's checklist, and they all were marked off by the Rangers on Tuesday. Pitching? Kason Gabbard, Josh Rupe, Joaquin Benoit and Eddie Guardado held the Mariners to two runs on seven hits, and the Rangers pitching staff -- even after giving 12 runs on Monday night -- still has a 3.94 ERA in its last 18 games. With closer C.J. Wilson unavailable, Guardado retired the side in the ninth on nine pitches for his first save since Aug. 12, 2006, while with the Reds. Defense? The Rangers not only did not commit an error, but they also backed their pitchers with four superb defensive plays by four different players. Kinsler made a tremendous diving stop to rob Ichiro Suzuki in the fifth inning, right fielder David Murphy and third baseman Ramon Vazquez made back-to-back diving catches in the seventh behind Rupe and center fielder Josh Hamilton crashed into the wall in straightaway center in the eighth to snatch extra bases away from Kenji Johjima. "What can I say?" Washington said. "They were good. They were very good." So was the offensive execution. The Rangers only had seven hits, but they coaxed six walks out of Mariners pitchers. They executed a hit-and-run in the fourth inning to set up a run. First baseman Chris Shelton dropped his second sacrifice bunt in two nights, and the Rangers brought home two runs on sacrifice flies by Vazquez and Kinsler. Shelton's two sacrifice bunts the past two nights equal the total he had in 764 professional games -- Minor and Major Leagues -- over his career. "Tonight, everything went well," Shelton said. "That's the way you win baseball games, playing like that." Playing hard also makes a difference, and it did so with Gerald Laird, the Texas catcher who was in the middle of every rally. Laird was 2-for-3 with a walk and also reached base on an error. He scored three runs and drove in another. But it was his hustle that may have provided the pivotal moment of the game. The Rangers led 2-0 into the sixth before the Mariners rallied to tie it with two runs off Gabbard and Rupe. But Laird allowed the Rangers to regain the lead and the momentum in the bottom of the inning. He did so by looping a single to left-center field to lead off the inning. He busted hard out of the box and rounded hard around first base, putting him in position to be ready when left fielder Raul Ibanez momentarily bobbled the ball. Laird dashed for second and just beat the throw. "I was going to make him make me stop," Laird said. "He did, too. I hesitated for a second. But as soon as I saw the ball pop out of his glove, I took off." That allowed the Rangers to bring home the go-ahead run without a hit. Shelton dropped his bunt to move Laird to third, and Vazquez brought him home with a sacrifice fly. Vazquez also had an RBI single in the eighth and finished 2-for-2 with two RBIs. "Every situation that was presented to us, we did something good," Washington said. "My players are playing the game right. They're doing what we knew they were capable of -- it just took us a while to put it together. We're playing baseball."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.