OAKLAND — For much of Friday night, it appeared Kendall Graveman was the starter who had something special going.
Things turned on a dime for the A’s right-hander, however, as Texas struck quickly against him en route to a 3-0 victory that clinched the American League West title for the Rangers.
Graveman took a perfect game into the seventh. But in a span of four hitters, he gave up two singles, a run-scoring groundout and Adrian Beltre’s two-run homer that provided all the night’s scoring. When all was said and done, Rangers lefty Cole Hamels was the one with the sterling pitching line, firing seven scoreless innings with seven strikeouts.
Hamels (15-5) gave up six runs in his previous start, when he faced the A’s in Arlington, and he entered Friday having walked 14 in his previous four starts. But he issued just two free passes in this one.
Graveman (10-11) was untouchable through six innings and made it look remarkably easy. When he finished off a six-pitch sixth inning, which left him at just 59 pitches, it appeared a historic outing could perhaps be in the works. Then his night took a sudden left turn in the seventh, and the A’s suddenly struggling offense didn’t have a response.
Oakland has scored just eight runs total in dropping the first four games of this final homestand of 2016.
The Rangers (91-63), who have won back to back division crowns, now shift their focus to trying to clinch home field advantage throughout the AL postseason.
Starting pitching report
Graveman, who had been tagged for 12 runs combined over his previous two starts, did what he does best in the early going Friday. He got early contact, kept his pitch count down and kept his defense busy. He hadn’t allowed a base runner when he took the mound in the seventh. But Carlos Gomez led off that inning with a grounder to the hole on the left side, and he easily beat shortstop Marcus Semien’s throw to first. Then Ian Desmond singled to right to put runners on the corners. Carlos Beltran’s chopper to first broke a scoreless tie, and Beltre then crushed a two-run shot to left to make it 3-0. The Rangers slugger continues to punish the A’s. He’s homered five times against them with 14 RBI in 14 games this season.
John Axford and Chris Smith finished things out in relief of Graveman.
At the plate
The A’s didn’t advance a runner past second base after the second inning. It was the second that provided them their best scoring chance. With Renato Nunez on first base and two outs, Chad Pinder drove a double to right-center. Third base coach Ron Washington aggressively waved Nunez around third but the rookie was easily thrown out at the plate.
In the field
Semien was visibly frustrated after Gomez’s hit that ended the perfecto in the seventh. But the shortstop didn’t appear to have a realistic shot to get him at first, as Gomez was crossing the bag as Semien’s throw came in wide right.
Danny Valencia, drawing the start at first base for the A’s, made a couple nice plays. He snared Jonathan Lucroy’s liner to end the top of the second, which loomed large until the Rangers got their first hit. Valencia also made a terrific snow-cone catch of Gomez’s foul pop, snagging the ball at the edge of the Rangers’ dugout just before he went down the steps.
The final fireworks night of the season drew a crowd of 26,367.
Raul Alcantara (1-1, 5.65) and Yu Darvish (5-5, 3.81) match up for the second time in a week in Saturday’s 1:05 p.m. game. Last Saturday, Alcantara came away with his first career victory in an 11-2 A’s rout.