AP Sports Writer
(AP) - Almost halfway through the season, the Texas Rangers have finally started playing some good baseball.
Too bad they dug themselves into such a big hole early, including 20 losses in May.
Even after winning four straight series, including two of three games at defending AL champion Detroit despite a 5-2 loss Thursday, the Rangers (32-46) were 16 1/2 games behind the AL West-leading Los Angeles Angels. That's the largest deficit in any division in baseball.
"Our record is unacceptable. Not in a million years, I didn't think this was going to happen," shortstop Michael Young said. "We have to take the attitude that the season isn't over. It's about being professional and having a strong desire to win. If we do, I'm sure our second half will be more productive."
The Rangers, also eight games behind third-place Oakland, are scheduled to hit the midpoint of their season Sunday in Boston, the third of a four-game series.
"We didn't get off to a very good start. I learned a lot about my team and the fact that they kept showing up every day busting," said rookie manager Ron Washington, whose record hasn't been above .500. "We stayed the course and we didn't make excuses. We stayed true to our work ethic."
And now Texas is finally seeing some positive results, with nine wins in 13 games. The stretch included the end of interleague play during which the Rangers won a team-record 11 games against National League teams.
"It wasn't fun coming to the ballpark and losing. … We've proven lately that we've been playing some good baseball, so I think there's some optimism around here," Frank Catalanotto said.
Still, with no realistic chance of competing for a playoff spot, the focus during the second half of the season will be on likely changes.
While in no hurry to make moves since the non-waiver trading deadline is still a month away, general manager Jon Daniels said he is in "listen mode" with calls from teams that are likely contenders.
Though Daniels hasn't mentioned any names, the Rangers have some veteran players signed only through this season that could be attractive to other teams:
- Eric Gagne. The right-hander closer has made an impressive comeback from elbow and back operations that limited him to 15 1-3 innings the past two seasons. He is 2-0 with eight saves in eight chances and a 1.23 ERA, while allowing runs in only two of his 23 appearances.
- Akinori Otsuka. Back in the setup role after 32 saves last season, the right-hander is 2-1 with four saves and a 2.64 ERA.
- Kenny Lofton. The 40-year-old center fielder has been to the playoffs 10 times with six teams in his 15 major league seasons. The leadoff hitter has a .289 batting average with 52 runs scored and 16 stolen bases.
- Sammy Sosa. After a year out of the baseball, the 38-year-old slugger last week become the fifth member of the 600-homer club. He is hitting .255 with 13 homers and 62 RBIs, tied for fourth in the AL.
Even though Mark Teixeira is on the disabled list with a strained left quadriceps muscle, teams will inquire about the switch-hitting first baseman. The Rangers likely will listen. But Young is untouchable after a new $80 million contract this year that will keep him with the Rangers through the 2013 season.
After a horrible start - Young was hitting only .198 after a three-game series against the New York Yankees to start May - the shortstop is hitting .296 and could be headed to his fourth straight All-Star game.
Young has hit .358 since that Yankees series and is on pace for his fifth straight 200-hit season.
"As far as the whole package is concerned, I'm not where I want to be, but I feel good about where I'm at now," he said. "The toughest part was the fact that I was struggling and we were losing. … It seems like for a month and a half, it seems like I tried harder every day, and that just doesn't work in baseball."