ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) – Buck Showalter flipped through the daily pages of his desktop calendar, moving it ahead two weeks to prepare for the Texas Rangers’ next homestand and the manager’s return to his office.

When Showalter was told that turning a calendar ahead was bad luck, he had some empirical evidence to the contrary.

“I think it’s pretty good,” he responded. “I’ve done it all year, done it the last eight days.”

The Rangers had just completed their longest undefeated homestand ever. They won all eight games, which is also the longest active streak in the major leagues.

But forget about luck or superstition. Texas (29-20), which plays 12 road games in 13 days starting Tuesday in Detroit, is winning because of stellar starting pitching and slugging hitters. The Rangers also have the AL’s best defense with just 25 errors.

“We know what we’re capable of doing,” outfielder Kevin Mench said. “It was just matter of time before we got rolling, getting everything clicking together. We’ve got everything right now we need.”

Texas, which had Memorial Day off, outscored Houston, Kansas City and the Chicago White Sox at home 64-19, a margin that would be impressive even without the 18-3 win over the Astros. There have been plenty of runs for the starting rotation, which has included the same five pitchers all season.

Rangers starters have won eight straight games for the first time in team history. They have allowed just 14 earned runs (2.29 ERA) and 12 walks over 55 innings during the streak, with Chan Ho Park (5-1, 4.60 ERA) winning twice in a week to surpass his 2004 victory total.

The Rangers’ overall success is no longer a surprise, unlike last season when a young team that was suddenly without Alex Rodriguez remained in the pennant race until the final week. The team has higher expectations this year.

“The players have more experience now. They believe this team can make the playoffs. People are more confident,” said second baseman Alfonso Soriano, who has postseason experience with the New York Yankees. “We just have to play hard and play good. All games count.”

Nobody on the current roster, not even 40-year-old left-hander Kenny Rogers (6-2, AL-leading 1.69 ERA), was with the Rangers for the last playoff appearance six years ago.

The Los Angeles Angels went into their game Monday against the White Sox leading the Rangers by a half-game in the AL West even without Vladimir Guerrero. The reigning AL MVP partially dislocated his left shoulder May 20, the same day Texas began its winning streak, but the Angels are 7-3 in their last 10 games and have a four-game winning streak.

“At this point last year, we were looking good. As a matter of fact, we were in first place in August, and we ended up in third place,” shortstop Michael Young said. “The biggest thing for us is knowing that there’s still a long way to go. We have to get better. It’s going to be a challenging trip.”

No matter how easy they make things look right now.

“If everything’s clicking, good teams are going to get hot and win a lot of games in a row,” first baseman Mark Teixeira said. “This just happens to be one of those streaks.”

Mench’s towering three-run homer in a six-run sixth inning Sunday put Texas ahead to stay in a 12-4 victory over the AL Central-leading White Sox and right-hander Jon Garland, who was trying to become baseball’s first nine-game winner.

That was one of 24 homers the Rangers have during the winning streak, which has included a .322 batting average and 11 hits per game.

But the Rangers have always been known for bashing the ball. They led the majors in home runs three of the past four seasons and are tops again with 78 this season, 44 more than their pitchers have allowed. Texas is the deepest into a season without using a sixth starter since 1998, a playoff season for the Rangers.

Francisco Cordero has a major league-leading 16 saves, and the bullpen seems to have adjusted to the loss of setup men Frank Francisco and Carlos Almanzar to ligament transplant operations. Relievers have allowed just 25 earned runs over 66 1-3 innings (3.39 ERA) the past 22 games

“The way they’re swinging the bats, I don’t know what you can do against them,” Chicago first baseman Paul Konerko said. “As hot as they are, they’re probably going to beat whoever they play. They are one of the best, if not the best, we’ve faced all year. They score runs, and they’re getting good pitching, so it’s no fluke. They’re going to be there all year.”

AP-ES-05-30-05 1707EDT


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