- Calvin Watkins, ESPN.com
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HOUSTON -- It's early.
Well, not that early, but the Texas Rangers have the majors' longest current winning streak -- eight games -- and the biggest lead of all the first-place teams.
Texas has a 3½-game lead in the AL West thanks to its just-completed 8-1 road trip that ended with a scrappy 4-3 10-inning victory over the Houston Astros on Sunday.
The Rangers were in first place for 23 consecutive days in May until they lost their way, but now they've found themselves again.
Manager Ron Washington said the current win streak is not about the hitting, because we all know the Rangers can hit. It's pitching and defense that is getting this done.
The Rangers don't have what you'd call a top-flight starter, but what they do have is Colby Lewis. He's tied for 20th in the majors in wins (seven) and is 13th in strikeouts (90), but opponents are hitting just .187 against him, the lowest mark among all starters.
The closer is a kid named Neftali Feliz, who leads the AL in saves after getting his 19th on Sunday afternoon.
And speaking of Sunday afternoon, the Rangers didn't lead all day until Josh Hamilton's RBI single drove in Julio Borbon in the 10th. It was one of those scrappy games from the Rangers, who hung in there while starter C.J. Wilson struggled with his fastball before he found his command to control the Astros after the second inning.
The Rangers stayed within themselves after failing to get anything in the seventh, when they loaded the bases and Elvis Andrus bounced out to short to end the inning.
In the ninth, they tied it when the Astros pitched to Hamilton instead of walking him to face the smoking Justin Smoak.
By the way, Hamilton is hitting .474 this month. On the nine-game road trip, he had 20 hits.
"We're relaxed right now," Hamilton said. "We're having fun, and when you do that, things come together."
The Rangers could be making some upgrades to the roster. Nelson Cruz, who was hitting .327 in 32 games for the Rangers before a strained hamstring put him on the disabled list for the second time, is expected to return Tuesday.
Team president Nolan Ryan has talked about adding a "front-line starter." Washington said that as much as he likes his rotation, they could use another starter.
So imagine what the Rangers could become.
"I think we're an extremely dangerous team right now," Ian Kinsler said. "I think the league is starting to notice that our lineup is pretty thick and Cruz isn't even in there yet, and when he gets back in there that will add another huge bat. But I'm always for making the team better, and right now I love every single guy we got in this locker room and I wouldn't trade any of them for anything. But if we get a new guy I will feel the same way."
Wilson and several other players noted that this season is a long way from being over. Washington said you can only focus on the players on the roster, not those who might be acquired.
However, adding a Roy Oswalt or a Cliff Lee to the starting rotation would ease the pressure. The problem, of course, is the ownership situation. Major League Baseball is running the team from a financial standpoint, and it's uncertain whether more money can be added to the payroll. There is a bankruptcy court hearing July 9 that could settle everything, however.
"If we get anything else, it will be gravy, depending on who it is," Wilson said. "We have depth, so it's like if someone comes in and is going to be really good, it's going to make it easier on everybody else, especially the bullpen."
Things are bright for red-hot Rangers, and the future could be even brighter.