Mitch Moreland is more than just a hot hitter.
The Texas first baseman, who is flirting with a .300 average thanks to a hot August, is also impressing the Rangers with improved defense.
Moreland provided half of the Rangers' offense in an 8-4 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday with a two-run homer -- his third homer in the last eight games -- one night after he preserved a win with a pair of sharp defensive plays.
With the bases loaded in what was a scoreless game Tuesday, Moreland stopped Jose Lobaton's fourth-inning bouncer and started an inning-ending double play with a strong throw. The Rangers took the lead in the bottom of the inning.
In the eighth, with the tying run aboard, Moreland reacted quickly to stop and scoop Ben Zobrist's low liner, taking away extra bases.
"He's really improving," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "He's getting there. He deserves a ton of credit for it. His hands are better because he's improved his footwork. He's quicker on his feet, and he's moving better laterally. He is trusting his instincts."
According to one defensive metric, Moreland ranks as the fourth-best-fielding first baseman in the majors this season among those with at least 500 innings at the position.
According to Fangraphs.com, Moreland has an Ultimate Zone Rating per 150 games of 7.8 runs saved above average. A year ago, Moreland's UZR per 150 was just 1.3. The stat is an attempt to give a full picture of a player's defensive contributions. He ranks behind only Adrian Gonzalez, Mark Teixeira and James Loney. The trio has combined for seven Gold Glove awards.