A’s bats silenced as Rangers clinch AL West

The Athletics were unable to delay the inevitable. After falling 3-0 Friday night, they were forced to watch the Texas Rangers celebrate the AL West title in Oakland.

Starter Kendall Graveman gave his offense six at-bats with which to take a lead, mowing through the Rangers (91-63) for two perfect trips through the order. As has been the case so many times over the past five years, though, Adrian Beltre gave Texas what it needed to beat the A’s (66-87) and claim its second straight division crown.

Graveman (L, 10-11, 4.19 ERA) finished logging 7 innings, but surrendered all of the Rangers’ four hits and three runs, each of which were recorded in his final frame.

In what could be the final outing of his break-out 2016 campaign, the 25-year-old righty, who was making start No. 30, came out sharp. Fanning two-hole hitter Ian Desmond for the first of his eventual three strikeouts, he worked a perfect first on just seven pitches.

Ranger starter Cole Hamels (W, 15-5, 3.30 ERA), on the other hand, was able to continuously dance around trouble, starting with the first. He finished allowing six hits and walking two in his 7 innings of work.

Allowing base runners in each of the first two innings, Hamels got a huge defensive boost in the second.

After a Renato Nunez two-out single, Chad Pinder appeared to put the A’s on the board with double into the right-center field gap. But, the likely American League Rookie of the Year right fielder Nomar Mazara, took an excellent route and was able to cut off the liner in front of the warning track. His throw, a less-than-impressive one, got to Rougned Odor in shallow right.

The second baseman fired, on a quick turn, to catcher Jonathan Lucroy who picked the one-hopper and was ready and waiting for the lumbering Nunez, who was out by 10 feet.

A rejuvenated Hamels responded by striking out the side in order in the third — needing just 12 pitches to do so.

Oakland was never able to put together another scoring opportunity, getting a runner into scoring position only once more on a one-out, fifth-inning double from Pinder.

While the Texas lefty fell into a groove in the middle innings, Graveman looked primed for his moment in history. Through 6 perfect innings, he had limited solid contact using his sinker to coax ground-outs from nine of the 18 batters faced.

In the seventh, however, it all came crashing down. And the collapse grew from humble beginnings.

As a high chopper off the bat of Carlos Gomez sailed over the head of the half-in third baseman Ryon Healy, Marcus Semien was forced to retreat into shallow left to play a second bounce. By then, it was too late to get the fleet-footed lead-off man, despite an effort from the shortstop, breaking up the perfection and no-hitter.

Desmond followed with a single, moving Gomez to third from where he was knocked in on a ground-out by Carlos Beltran. Beltre added a crushing blow one pitch later with a two-run home run (31), his fifth against the A’s this season and No. 37 against them in his career.

Lucroy added a single in the seventh for Texas’ final hit of the night.

Along with Pinder, Danny Valencia finished with a pair of hits (2-for-4) pushing his season average to .290.

John Axford and Chris Smith each recorded perfect innings of relief, while Sam Dyson converted save No. 36 of the season.

The green and gold will host what is likely to be a largely young Texas lineup for a Saturday matinée. Yu Darvish (5-5, 3.81 ERA) is currently slated to make the start for the visitors, facing Raul Alcantara (1-1, 5.65 ERA).


Kalama Hines is SFBay’s Oakland Athletics beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @HineSight_2020 on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of A’s baseball.