OAKLAND -- The Rangers are not a great defensive team; their 113 errors are the second-most in the American League after they made two more Thursday afternoon.
But they have been good at turning the double play, and that helped starter Cole Hamels get through six innings in an 8-1 victory over the Athletics at the Coliseum. The win gave Texas a 3 1/2-game lead atop the AL West and lowered its magic number to 7.
The Rangers turned four double plays in the first five innings Thursday, giving them 162 for the season. That's the most in the AL and already tied for the 13th-most in one season in club history. They still have 10 games to move up, although the club record is 191, set in 2008.
"I am not normally a ground-ball pitcher, but it definitely helped out today," said Hamels, who allowed only an unearned run in the win. "I was able to get the double play in key situations and kept them from rallying. The defense was outstanding. It helps keep your pitch count down and shuts down the momentum the other team has."
Shortstop Elvis Andrus and second baseman Rougned Odor did most of the heavy lifting on the double plays, but Hamels got in on the act, too. He turned Mark Canha's grounder back to the mound into an inning-ending double play in the third.
"I'll take the kudos," Hamels. "I don't normally execute that too well, so I'll give myself a pat on the back for that one."
The four double plays came on three types of pitches: two were on fastballs, one on the cutter and one on the changeup.
"This guy does a complete job of preparing himself," manager Jeff Banister said. "He studies every hitter. He's well-aware of what he needs to do to each hitter to get him to hit the ball on the ground. He was able to get a pitch where he needed it to, got them to hit it on the ground and the defense did the job behind him."
The Rangers should be proficient in turning double plays. They have had plenty of opportunities and it masks other issues.
Rangers pitchers went into Thursday's action leading the AL in walks allowed and tied for the fourth-most in hits allowed. On the other side, they have the second-fewest strikeouts. Also, opposing hitters had put the ball in play on 41.6 percent of their swings, the second-highest rate for any AL pitching staff.
Add it all up and it's easy to see why the double play is so important to the Rangers' pitching staff. According to STATS, Rangers pitchers entered Thursday having the highest number of double-play situations in the league this season.
"It's something we know we have to do, so we work hard at it," Odor said. "Elvis and I are always talking and anticipating the next play. I think that's why we're good at it."