(The Sports Xchange) - Left-hander Cole Hamels pitched six solid innings as the Rangers cruised to an 8-1 victory against the Oakland Athletics on Thursday, completing a three-game sweep and setting themselves up for their crucial series with the Houston Astros.
The Rangers increased their lead in the American League West to a season-high 3 1/2 games over the Astros, who they meet in a three-game series that starts on Friday.
“They’ve got some great energy right now, superior focus,” Rangers manager Jeff Banister said.
“They’re on a mission. We’ve been talking about this. I believe that each one of them knows where we want to go, but we’re not there yet, so they’ve maintained that focus.”
Hamels, who came to the Rangers from Philadelphia in an eight-player trade, won his fifth successive game, allowing one unearned run on four hits, striking out two and walking three.
The Rangers turned four double plays for Hamels, who had Athletics hitters pounding his pitches into the ground. Texas had a double play in the first, third, fourth and fifth innings.
“I‘m not normally a ground ball pitcher, but it definitely helped out today,” Hamels said.
”Being able to get the big double plays in the key situations, it definitely kept them from rallying.
”What’s coming next is going to be a tough series because Houston’s at home.
”Everybody kind of knows what’s in store there.
”We just have to keep bearing down and being ourselves and going out there and feeling confident and knowing we’re going to get good games pitched by our starters and the hitters are going to go up there and score runs for us.
“It’s exciting to be able to take this and move forward for tomorrow.”
Rangers designated hitter Prince Fielder hit his 22nd home run of the season, a two-run blast in the eighth inning, while third baseman Adrian Beltre went 2-for-5 and drove in three runs for the Rangers.
Center fielder Delino DeShields had three hits, drove in two runs and scored twice.
Athletics designated hitter Billy Butler recorded his 1,400th career hit, a leadoff double in the seventh inning.
Right fielder Josh Reddick went 1-for-2, stole two bases and scored a run.
“They have good team over there,” Athletics manager Bob Melvin said.
“They have great leadership and everybody is healthy. They have a lot of guys who’ve been there before. They’re talented, and they brought in Hamels and made some pick-ups.”
Compiled by Greg Stutchbury