OAKLAND, Calif. — 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 win over the Oakland Athletics on Friday night.
This is Texas’ seventh AL West title — not including the strike-shortened 1994 season — and fourth since 2010. The Rangers have won division titles in both seasons since manager Jeff Banister took over after losing an AL-high 95 games in 2014.
Beltre’s homer came during a three-run seventh after Oakland starter Kendall Graveman (10-11) began with six perfect innings. Texas got its first baserunner when Carlos Gomez beat out an infield hit to lead off the seventh against Graveman.
All-Star left-hander Cole Hamels (15-5), acquired prior to last year’s non-waiver trade deadline, pitched the division-clinching game for the second year in a row. Last year, he threw a three-hitter in the last game of the regular season to beat the Los Angeles Angels.
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.
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 run 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.
BEST IN THE WEST
This is the third time the Rangers have won back-to-back 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.
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.