A call to arms

ARLINGTON, Texas — The Cowboys will remain sports kings of the Metroplex.

But by changing their culture and mindset, the Rangers have seized the success that eluded them for years as they tried to outslug their opponents.

"It's not like we've taken over (from the Cowboys)," said outfielder David Murphy, whose Rangers will try to complete a three-game sweep of the Rays in this best-of-five American League Division Series that resumes Saturday at Rangers Ballpark. "(But) we've definitely taken a step in the right direction this year."

The biggest step was a greater emphasis on pitching that produced the third-lowest ERA in the American League (3.93) despite playing half their games in a hitters' park.

They also have been less reliant on the home run while maximizing their scoring chances by drawing more walks and hitting .277 with runners in scoring position.

The transformation is similar to what the Rockies experienced during their surprising run to the 2007 World Series.

"I see some common fabric in the fact that steps have been taken before I got here," said Rangers hitting coach Clint Hurdle, who managed the 2007 Rockies. "The starting pitchers have taken more of a role in the entire game by pitching more innings, more meaningful innings and pitching deeper into games. A quality start wasn't by definition of times today. It was pitch seven innings. Keep us in the game."

Hurdle described this as a "foot-down mentality" by team President Nolan Ryan and pitching coach Mike Maddux with the support of manager Ron Washington, who has stressed defense.

"You want to build an offense that does some things that are attractive," Hurdle said. "You send four guys to the All-Star Game and finish in third or fourth place. … It's not what you set out to do, but if you don't pitch and play defense and you have offensive weapons, at the end of the day, that's what you get."

mgonzales@tribune.com

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