CLEVELAND -- The Rangers' emphasis on pitching and defense has produced one stunning result. Texas has reduced its staggering total of unearned runs from last year in a big way. The Rangers went into Tuesday's doubleheader against the Indians having allowed just two unearned runs in their past 29 games. That left them having allowed 30 unearned runs all year, fewest in the American League.
In 2008, the Rangers led the Major Leagues with 107 unearned runs allowed, the most by a team since the 1999 Rays allowed 108. It was the 12th-most unearned runs allowed in the season since World War II. "A lot of it has to do with these kids' attitudes toward playing defense," manager Ron Washington said. "Without the attitude of wanting to be good defensive players, then this transformation wouldn't have happened." The Rangers knew coming into the season they had to reduce the number of unearned runs but they didn't expect a record-breaking performance. That could happen. Entering Tuesday's doubleheader, Texas had 26 games left in the season. Barring a complete defensive collapse, the Rangers will break the club record for fewest unearned runs in a season. They allowed 50 unearned runs in both 1996 and 1999. They also won the American League West in both of those seasons. But over the past nine seasons, only Tampa Bay gave up more unearned runs in the American League than Texas. "It's only going to get better," Washington said. "From now on, pitching and defense are going to be the No. 1 thing if you want to play in Texas. If you can't play defense, then you are not going to play in Texas."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.