OAKLAND -- Ron Washington has been preaching pitching and defense since the day he became the Rangers manager. Infield defense is his particular specialty; there may not be another person on the planet who has studied that area of the game as much as Washington.
So perhaps it was appropriate pitching and defense led the way on a Sunday afternoon when Washington became the winningest manager in Rangers history. The infield defense was especially good behind Derek Holland as he pitched the Rangers to a 4-0 victory over the Athletics at the Coliseum.
When it was over, the Rangers gave Washington a beer shower in the clubhouse to celebrate his 582nd win since being named manager on Nov. 6, 2006. This one allowed him to pass Bobby Valentine for first place among Rangers managers.
"He's going to get a lot more," said second baseman Ian Kinsler, who has been around for all 582 wins. "It's not going to stop here. He has established a winning environment, the players trust him and like playing for him. We're really happy for him. We just want to get that World Series title."
Only three other managers have won more games since the beginning of 2007 than Washington: the Phillies' Charlie Manuel, the Angels' Mike Scioscia and the Rays' Joe Maddon.
"It means a lot to me," Washington said. "I came in as a novice, having never managed at the big league level, and now I'm the winningest manager in Texas Rangers history. This organization gave me the chance and supplied me with the players, the coaches handed out my mandate and the players bought into it. A manager is only as good as his players. You win because the players play well, and I see a lot more wins coming."
This victory was also the second in three games for the Rangers and they leave Oakland trailing the Athletics by 2 1/2 games in the American League West. The Rangers are now 8-5 against the Athletics this season, including 4-2 at the Coliseum.
"It was big series," shortstop Elvis Andrus said. "That's what we're looking for, win another series. We need to keep that same mentality and keep that same focus. Just keep winning series."
Andrus and Kinsler made the two most spectacular defensive plays that allowed Holland to pitch eight scoreless innings. He allowed four hits and two walks while tying his season high with 10 strikeouts.
Holland is now 9-6 with a 3.02 ERA on the season, including 7-1 with a 2.61 ERA on the road. That currently is the sixth-lowest road ERA in club history, although the lowest is 1.95 set by Bert Blyleven in 1977.
"Holland pitched well, really well, and probably the best we've seen him pitch in a while," Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. "There were probably several factors that led to us not doing much, but he was real good."
Apparently the Athletics thought home plate umpire Bill Miller was one factor because catcher Derek Norris said "there was a time or two where we thought he had a decent-sized strike zone."
Holland said his changeup was particularly good as well.
"My changeup was really big today," Holland said. "I used it in every situation, no matter what the count, and it kept those guys off balance."
But the biggest factor may have been the Rangers' infield defense.
"They're a pretty good group of guys," Washington said. "Today they had to make some plays and they did."
Holland beat Athletics starter A.J. Griffin, who added to his Major League lead by allowing home runs to Nelson Cruz and Mitch Moreland. Griffin has allowed 28 home runs this year, including two to Moreland.
The Rangers got one run in the first after left fielder Yoenis Cespedes dropped Kinsler's fly ball for an error. Kinsler ended up on second and scored on a single by Adrian Beltre. Cruz made it 2-0 with his 27th home run of the season to lead off the second.
Then came the defense, snuffing out an Oakland rally in the second after Nate Freiman reached on a one-out single. Alberto Callaspo followed with a hard line drive toward first base that Moreland knocked down going to his right and got a force at second. After Chris Young walked, Josh Reddick hit a hard grounder up the middle but Kinsler made a terrific diving stop going to his right and threw to first to end the inning.
Andrus made a terrific play with two out in the third, going deep into the left-side hole to backhand Jed Lowrie's grounder, then jumping and firing to first for the out. Beltre also had a nice play at third base, going to his left to grab Coco Crisp's hard grounder leading off the sixth.
"It's all about winning the game," Andrus said. "Sometimes you help the team defensively, sometimes you help the team offensively. The main thing is to do everything you can do to win. This was a good game defensively all-around, a great team effort."
The Rangers led, 2-0, going into the seventh when Craig Gentry beat out a slow grounder with two outs. Moreland then crushed an 0-1 fastball deep over the right-field wall. His 16th home run of the season made it 4-0 and brought Griffin's afternoon to an end.
The Rangers finished the game off by turning double plays to end the eighth and ninth innings, a fitting tribute on the day their defensive manager achieved a milestone victory.
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.