ARLINGTON, TEXAS (AP) - The Texas Rangers are sending a clear message to anyone wondering how they would recover from that crushing World Series loss.
There is no hangover effect from being so agonizingly close to winning it all.
The Rangers (15-4) entered Thursday’s off day with the best record in the majors. The two-time defending American League champions have won their first six series in a season for the first time in franchise history. They lead the majors in hitting, with a .295 average and 31 home runs, and have one of the top pitching staffs as well.
“It tells you that they’ve put the World Series behind them and they’re dealing with this season, and they feel like that they’re as good as any team in baseball,” team president Nolan Ryan said. “And I think they want to prove that.”
Only six months ago, the Rangers were twice within a strike of a World Series-clinching victory before losing Game 6 in extra innings at St. Louis. They jumped to a 2-0 lead in the first inning of Game 7 before losing that game as well.
“Yeah, it hurt at the time. Of course it did,” second baseman Ian Kinsler said. “But it has no bearing on the games we’re playing now. We all love to compete and we want to win as many games as possible.”
At their current pace, they would win 128 games this season.
While it’s highly unlikely they will reach that total, the fast start reinforces what the Rangers consistently said throughout the offseason and during spring training. They are focused on 2012 and trying to get to the World Series again, not what happened last October.
“We’re a confident group. We go out to win every day, we kind of expect to go out there to win and play a good game on defense, offense and get good pitching,” catcher Mike Napoli said. “We’re playing good team baseball right now. We’re playing how we want to play. We expect to play good, so I don’t think it’s surprising that we’re having a good start. But we’re glad we’re off to this start.”
Texas already leads Oakland and Seattle by 5 1/2 games in the AL West. The Los Angeles Angels, one of the preseason favorites, are off to a rough start and are nine back.
“It’s good to see the guys with the same mentality and attitude that they had last year,” said Rangers star Josh Hamilton, who is hitting .390 with eight home runs and 19 RBIs.
Manager Ron Washington is basically using the same everyday lineup he did last season, since the top-hitting team is unchanged.
“We have a good understanding of what we expect out of each other,” said Kinsler, the leadoff hitter whose new $75 million, five-year contract through 2017 makes him one of league’s top-paid second basemen.
After a career-best 30 homers last season, Napoli already has seven this year. Michael Young, the longest-tenured Ranger in his 12th season, is hitting .356.
The Rangers have scored a majors-best 107 runs, more than twice as many the AL-low 52 runs they have allowed. That means they’re outscoring teams by an average of nearly three runs a game.