OAKLAND, Calif. — Oakland Athletics manager Bob Melvin admits the notion of a historic night at Oakland Coliseum on Friday crossed his mind.
“Any time you get past the fifth, you start thinking about it,” Melvin said.
A’s pitcher Kendall Graveman took a perfect game into the seventh inning, but things unraveled quickly after that.
Adrian Beltre hit a two-run homer in the seventh inning and the Texas Rangers secured their second straight AL West title, becoming the first American League team to clinch a playoff spot with a 3-0 victory over the Oakland Athletics.
Texas got its first baserunner when Carlos Gomez beat out an infield hit to lead off the seventh against Graveman (10-11).
Beltre’s blast came three batters later.
“It turned quick,” Graveman said. “You can’t beat yourself up over that one inning. If you look at the work of the whole game, then I think (catcher Stephen) Vogt and I did a good job of locating and he did a good job of calling the game.”
Graveman allowed three runs and four hits over seven innings. He threw 77 pitches and went to just one three-ball count, to Nomar Mazara leading off the third.
“(Graveman) was throwing the ball really well.” Beltre said. “His fastball was moving really well. He got us off-balanced for about six innings. We got lucky. We got a couple of balls that found some holes. We scored just when we needed to win the ballgame.”
Beltre unloaded on what he believes was Graveman’s first slider of the game.
“I was not (expecting) that pitch, but he left it right over the plate. I was lucky enough to put a good swing on it,” he said.
All-Star left-hander Cole Hamels (15-5), acquired before last year’s non-waiver trade deadline, pitched the division-clinching game for the second straight year. Last year, he threw a three-hitter in the last game of the regular season to beat the Los Angeles Angels.
Hamels struck out seven and allowed no walks in seven innings of six-hit ball in what for him was an important bounce-back after allowing 21 earned runs in 18 innings over his previous four starts.
The A’s brought the tying run to the plate with two outs in the ninth but closer Sam Dyson got pinch-hitter Yonder Alonso to hit into a fielder’s choice for the last out to record his 36th save.
A subdued celebration on the field followed.
“Well, if they were out there watching it, hopefully they take away how good of a feeling it is and what it looks like,” Melvin said when asked what his players could take from watching the Rangers celebrate on their field.
“I didn’t stick around. To each his own, as far as that goes.”
BEST IN THE WEST
This is the third time the Rangers have won consecutive titles, having also done so in 1998 and 1999 and then in 2010 and 2011. Current A’s third base coach Ron Washington was their manager for the most recent back-to-back, when they made their first two World Series appearances.
After being the AL West’s first-place team since May 29, the Rangers finally clinched in their 154th game. That matched their earliest clinch ever — they also won the division in the 154th game in 2011, also at Oakland.
The Rangers recalled LHP Andrew Faulkner from Triple-A Round Rock. Faulkner has been working out at the team’s Surprise, Arizona, training complex since Sept. 12.
Rangers: OF Shin-Soo Choo took batting practice Friday for the first time since going on the DL Aug. 16 with a left forearm fracture. Choo hopes to play in next weekend’s regular season-ending series against Tampa Bay, which could be his last chance to show the Rangers he’s ready to be on their playoff roster.
Athletics: Utilityman Arismendy Alcantara will miss the rest of the season with a thumb sprain. Alcantara was injured sliding into second base in the ninth inning of Wednesday’s game against the Houston Astros.
Rangers starter Yu Darvish (5-5, 3.81) tries to get back on track against Raul Alcantara (1-1, 5.65) on Saturday. Darvish has a 7.47 ERA in his past three starts, including when he allowed seven runs over five innings last time out against the A’s.