ARLINGTON, Texas — August is historically when the Texas Rangers have wilted, but so far this year the dog days have brought back their old bark.
Several of the Rangers’ upward trends were evident in Sunday’s 8-3 win over the Detroit Tigers.
They received great pitching from a formerly erratic starter, Yu Darvish. They jumped on the Tigers early, building a 6-0 lead after four innings. And Josh Hamilton hit his 32nd homer to continue his improvement at the plate.
After a dreadful July, when the Rangers went 9-14, the Rangers are now 8-3 in August and their AL West lead has swelled to 6-1/2 games over second-place Oakland.
Manager Ron Washington traces the turnaround to back-to-back losses to the Angels on the last two days of July: a 15-8 romp and a 6-2 smothering.
“We got a wakeup call against the Angels,” Washington said. “They challenged us and we realized we weren’t playing to our capabilities. So we got back focused.
“When you get a gut check, and you’re a competitor, you do two things: You either lie down or you get up and fight. We got up and fought. Right now, we’re fighting pretty good.”
Darvish pointed to another game for his personal turnaround. In his prior start, a 9-2 loss Monday in Boston, Darvish was pounded for 11 hits and six runs in 6-2/3 innings.
In the time between starts, Darvish said he focused on getting back to his old form. It worked. Darvish (12-8) allowed just three runs and struck out eight over 6-2/3 innings Sunday.
“I was able to attack the zone, be aggressive,” Darvish said through an interpreter. “Especially from the middle of the game on, I was able to go after them with my fastball.”
Darvish got into trouble just once when he gave up three runs in the fifth inning. He came back with an impressive 1-2-3 inning in the sixth.
“He was the king,” Washington said. “He was standing out in the middle, the highest point in the field and he acted like he was the king. He was tension free. He was confident. He was competing. And he was just executing his pitches.”
While going back to his old training methods, Darvish said he also got some advice from the Maddux brothers — pitching coach Mike Maddux and special assistant Greg Maddux — as well as a tip from his personal trainer, Seiichiro Nagasaki.
“It’s more towards just going back to what I was,” Darvish said. “It’s not like I’m trying a totally different delivery, it’s trying to get back to my old form. These five days were very important and very constructive and a big step toward getting back to my true self.”
Hamilton also is getting back to his old self after going 2 for 3 and driving in three runs Sunday, including his two-run homer in the first inning off Detroit starter Rick Porcello.
Hamilton, now on a 10-game hitting streak, attributed his improvement to greater patience at the plate.
Washington said he noticed Hamilton making an adjustment after he was briefly dropped from third to fifth in the order.
“Since then, he’s been zeroing in on the strike zone,” Washington said. “He quit chasing them a mile out of the strike zone, and now he’s just chasing them a half-a-mile.”
The dreary days of July seem like miles away to the Rangers now.