Brandon McCarthy survived a near-disastrous first inning to earn his fifth victory, most on the staff, and the Rangers have won 14 of their past 19 games. They are also now 20-8 for the month of May, their most victories ever in that month in club history. It's only the second time in Rangers history that they've won 20 games in a month, one short of the record of 21-10 set in September 1978.
"A refreshing victory," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "We're having fun and it's easy to have fun when you're doing the things we're doing. We're pitching pretty good, catching the ball pretty good and doing enough to put runs on the board. Tonight we broke out a little bit."
The Rangers were 19-10 in May last season on their way to a 79-83 record for the season. That 19-10 record came after a 10-18 April and left them four games behind the Angels in the American League West when the month was over.
This season, after going 10-11 in April, the Rangers have now been sitting in first place in the AL West for 25 straight days. That's their longest continuous stretch sitting in first place since 1999 when they won their last division title by spending 139 straight days atop the AL West.
There have been only four seasons in which the Rangers have enjoyed their current lead of 5 1/2 games -- 1994, '96, '98 and '99. They finished in first place in all four seasons.
"It all starts with pitching and defense," said third baseman Michael Young, who had three hits. "I know that sounds like a broken record around here, but that's why we're having so much fun."
The Rangers' offense joined in the fun with 17 hits, second most in a game this season, and five walks. The Rangers, who came into the game with the third fewest walks in the American League, have 24 walks in their past five games. Ian Kinsler had two walks and scored after both.
"If you're generating walks, you're having good at-bats and not swinging at bad pitches," Kinsler said. "That's what we need all up and down the lineup, just tough at-bats. Swing at strikes and take balls. If we can be consistent in that, our offense will be much better."
McCarthy was the one issuing walks early in a strange first inning. He threw 22 pitches and only seven of them were strikes. He walked the first two batters and three of the first four, and still escaped with just one run scored.
After McCarthy walked the first two hitters, he fell behind 2-0 to Matt Holliday. Pitching coach Mike Maddux made a quick visit to the mound and McCarthy responded immediately to what he said. He threw a four-seam fastback and Holliday hit it right at second baseman Kinsler for a double play.
"I don't even remember what [Maddux] said," McCarthy said. "I was searching all over the place trying to find something. It was probably the same message he always says: 'Go after them ... you have good stuff ... now find it.'"
McCarthy then walked Jason Giambi and got a break when Kurt Suzuki's double deep into the right-center field gap ricocheted into the Rangers' bullpen. That kept a second run from scoring and McCarthy then wiggled out of the inning by getting Ryan Sweeney on a pop to third base.
Sweeney's popout started a complete turnaround for McCarthy. Sweeney was the first of 12 straight hitters McCarthy retired. McCarthy also retired 16 of 18 hitters before leaving after six innings. By then, the Rangers were sitting on a 10-1 lead.
"I really have no answer," McCarthy said. "I just settled in and got back to getting into a groove."
The Rangers as a team have been in one for most of May. They've also been doing pretty good against the AL West.
The Rangers need one more victory against the Athletics on Sunday to sweep the four-game series. If so, it would be their third straight sweep of an AL West opponent after taking a pair of three-game series on the last homestand against the Mariners and Angels. They are 13-2 against the AL West so far this season.
"I've always said that you want to play well within your division," Washington said. "If you win a lot within your division, the opportunity to be successful is much greater. We're winning in our division and we hope it continues."