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Rangers stay atop AL West
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04/25/2004  5:45 PM ET 
Rangers stay atop AL West
Nix paces offense with two home runs, five RBIs

Adrian Gonzalez (left) celebrates after hitting his first Major League home run on Sunday. (LM Otero/AP)
ARLINGTON -- During his brief tenure in Texas, Rangers manager Buck Showalter has already proven to be a master of the understatement.

Last season, when the club lumbered through April finishing 12-14 in the month and 8-11 against the division, Showalter, in his first year in the Lone Star State, remained optimistic yet mostly silent about the immediate future of his club.

He often muttered something about ... "getting better."

Flash forward one year and things have seemingly changed for the Rangers. The club is coming off a 14-6 victory to complete a three-game sweep of Seattle on Sunday and finished the first round of play against the AL West with an 11-8 record and in first place.

But true to form, Showalter, praises his young team, yet again is mostly silent about the future.

Inside, he has to be doing back flips.

The Rangers have not been in first place this late in the season since 2000.

"So far, so good," he said Sunday, repeating the phrase of the weekend. "The challenge is going to be from here on out. I'm real proud of the effort and the way we are pulling together. I'm real happy."

It is likely the manager will keep his stoic disposition, in part because he doesn't want the team to lose focus or let down now that the first stretch against the AL West is in the books. He also might not want to let his players know that it might not be normal for such a young group of players to gel together so quickly and effectively.

The thing is, they might not believe him if he told them anyway.

"You are talking to a bunch of kids out here and we don't know any better," said Kevin Mench, who went 4-for-4 and tied a team record with five runs scored. "We'll go in Tuesday against KC and try to carry it on to another day."

Whether he truly is a kid or not a kid is debatable, but the 26-year old Mench finished a double short of hitting for the cycle. He hit his second single of the game in the eighth inning and made a huge turn around first base as if he were heading to second before retreating back to the base.

He later scored his fifth run of the game in the eighth on a RBI double by rookie Adrian Gonzalez.

"He's really been getting it going," Showalter said. "I see all the work these guys do behind the scenes."

Joining Mench in the hit parade was center fielder Laynce Nix. Nix hit two home runs and picked up five RBIs to pace the Rangers offense. Overall, the Rangers hit five home runs in the game against Seattle, including three consecutive homers by Nix, Rod Barajas and Gonzalez in the sixth inning. Gonzalez's homer was the first of his career.

"It was a thrill," Gonzalez, 21, said. "I can still feel the adrenaline running through my veins right now. My first hit and now my first home run is something that I will never forget. Especially since it came back-to-back-to-back made it even sweeter."

Nix, only in his second big league season, finished 3-for-4 with three runs scored. After the game, he repeated a familiar sentiment that has overtaken the home clubhouse.

"We are bunch of young guys going out there and having fun and I think it shows," he said. "We might not have all the experience or whatever, but we want to win and we are out there trying to win every game. We feel great right now. In the clubhouse everybody is getting along."

Rangers starter John Wasdin joined the fun Sunday, the same day he was called up from Triple-A Oklahoma, by allowing seven hits and three runs in 4 2/3 innings in a spot start before being relieved by Erasmo Ramirez. Carlos Almanzar earned the victory with 2 1/3 innings of relief.

"I learned a lot today and I was trying to mix up pitches. I had a lot adrenaline today and I was trying to stay under control," Wasdin said. "Hopefully, I can be a part of this team as a starter or in the bullpen, whatever the role may be. Rod (Barajas) called a great game and the defense here makes you really feel comfortable because you are not afraid to have them put the ball in play."

After an off day, Wasdin and the Rangers start a three-game series against Kansas City on Tuesday and return home for three games against AL East power Boston.

Jesse Sanchez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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