ANAHEIM -- Maybe it's not time to start calculating magic numbers just yet, but the Rangers have pushed their lead back to five games in the American League West.The Rangers did so behind an opportunistic offense and the pitching of Alexi Ogando in an 8-4 victory over the Angels on Monday night. The five-game lead matches the Rangers' largest of the season. They were five games up on July 19, but now there are just 40 games left in the season, including three more with the Angels this week. The Rangers, who have been in first place for 41 straight days, have won nine of their last 11 games. They are also 24-12 against the AL West with 18 wins in their last 22 games against division opponents. That includes Game 1 of this much-anticipated four-game series at Angel Stadium. "It's very important to win the first game, but you can't live off what you did before," manager Ron Washington said. "It's what have you done lately. We have to come back and play a good game tomorrow." The Rangers weren't giddy after the game because they had beaten the Angels. They were just pleased with the way they have been playing lately, especially on offense. The Rangers tried to play "little ball" early in the game, trying to manufacture one run, and it led to a six-run fifth inning that broke the game open. "That's what we have to do: focus on the fundamentals," infielder Michael Young said. "We know we have the talent for the big inning, but if you have a chance for one run, get it in. You get another, get it in. If you do that, the big innings will come." That's exactly what happened, and it helps that second baseman Ian Kinsler is getting hot. He was 4-for-5 with two doubles and three runs scored. He also has 12 hits in 31 at-bats in what is now a seven-game hitting streak. "I'm just trying to get it going ... help the offense and set the table," Kinsler said. "It's the same thing I have been trying to do all year. If I can get to second base, it sets up our offense nicely." He did that in his first three at-bats and ended up crossing home plate. Elvis Andrus' bunting ability helped, too. The Angels helped out the Rangers with three errors and they also lost starter Garrett Richards in the first inning to a strained right groin. Richards was making just his second Major League start and Angels manager Mike Scioscia ended up using four relievers. "That was too bad, because it would have been interesting to see what the guy has," Washington said. "It was too bad, Mike had to go to his bullpen early and he had to go to a lot of them." Kinsler led off the first inning with a double. Andrus went up to bunt him to third, but after taking the first pitch for a ball, catcher Bobby Wilson bounced a pickoff attempt into center field. Kinsler went to third and scored on a grounder by Andrus. Kinsler, with the score 1-1, also led off the third with a double. This time Andrus moved him over with a sacrifice bunt and Josh Hamilton brought him home with a double to left. The Rangers still had that one-run lead in the fifth when Mitch Moreland and Kinsler led off the inning with singles. Andrus dropped another bunt and Angels reliever Hisanori Takahashi tried to get Moreland at third. But his throw sailed past third baseman Albert Callaspo, allowing Moreland to score and the other runners to move up to second and third. "We needed to do a lot of things on damage control for that inning and didn't get it done," Scioscia said. "We just couldn't crawl back enough to make a difference." Hamilton struck out but Young lined a single to left-center, bringing home two more runs. Then came the heavy thunder as Nelson Cruz and Mike Napoli hit back-to-back home runs to give the Rangers an 8-1 lead. "If you watch our team on an everyday basis, we're capable of playing any kind of baseball," Kinsler said. "Tonight it showed in all aspects of the game. That's what we pride ourselves in doing." The 8-1 lead was more than enough for Ogando. He agreed with Washington that he didn't have his best stuff, but he did get through 6 1/3 innings. He allowed four runs on eight hits with two walks and two strikeouts. He is now 12-5 with a 3.33 ERA on the season and has the most wins on the team. "I felt at times really wild," Ogando said. "But I battled out there the best I could with what I had." Ogando left after giving up a two-run home run to Russell Branyan in the seventh. He was followed by Koji Uehara, who retired two hitters in the seventh and then pitched a scoreless inning in the eighth. Mark Lowe finished off the game with a scoreless ninth and the Rangers' relievers have allowed just one run in 25 innings over their last seven games. "We're just trying to play our baseball and accept what happens," Washington said. "So far we're playing our game."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.