OAKLAND, Calif. — The Oakland Athletics returned from an impressive, winning trip, and manager Bob Melvin hoped that would create momentum heading into his club’s final homestand of 2016.
Instead, the A’s lost a fifth straight at the Coliseum and left Melvin reflecting Saturday on previous seasons when the ballpark had a vibe, fans were into it and they showed up carrying signs.
Elvis Andrus hit a pair of two-run homers for the newly crowned AL West champion Texas Rangers and Oakland was shut out for the second straight day, losing 5-0 behind rookie Raul Alcantara.
“We were scoring runs in bunches, we’d won six out of seven, had a chance to sweep seven in a row, we really had a good feeling coming in here and then haven’t been able to sustain anything since we’ve been home,” Melvin said.
Yu Darvish (6-5) baffled the A’s for a change. And he had all the run support he needed on a couple of big swings from Andrus, who had his first career multi-homer game. Andrus, who asked to play Saturday after the team celebrated a night earlier and will get a break Sunday, also established career highs for homers with eight and RBIs with 68.
Darvish had been 0-3 on the road, winning for the first time in seven away starts, but he had no-decisions in his last three.
“He was all out today, he owned us,” Oakland’s Bruce Maxwell said.
Darvish gave up two hits, struck out nine and walked one in seven innings a day after Texas became the first AL team to clinch a playoff spot with its second straight division title and seventh AL West title overall.
Darvish allowed only Stephen Vogt’s two-out single in the first until Yonder Alonso singled with one out in the fifth. Marcus Semien followed with a walk, but Darvish escaped unscathed.
“Certainly today that’s as good as we’ve seen Darvish pitch in a while,” Melvin said.
Alcantara (1-2), someone Melvin considers a candidate for the rotation next season, struck out six with one walk over six innings. He allowed four runs on seven hits and has surrendered five home runs in four major league starts.
Oakland had the bases loaded in the eighth but Vogt flied out.
Andrus said “it means a lot” to have that kind of production, and told teammates he would one day have two home runs in a game.
“They’re going to laugh when I bring up a conversation about homers, for sure, I don’t have too many in my career,” he said. “They didn’t today.”
Manager Jeff Banister rested his regulars aside from right fielder Nomar Mazara and Andrus, who had his second career four-RBI game.
Robinson Chirinos added an RBI double in the ninth for Texas (92-63), which moved 29 games above .500 for the first time since exactly four years ago on Sept. 24, 2012.
Three relievers finished the five-hit shutout. Darvish had lost to the A’s his previous time out, allowing seven runs over five innings in an 11-2 loss last Saturday in Arlington.
Now, ace lefty Cole Hamels and Darvish seem poised to give the Rangers a powerful 1-2 to start the playoffs.
“I’m sure the confidence level is high,” Banister said.
Rangers: RHP Tony Barnette threw 20 pitches to hitters as he works back from a strained oblique and could get into games early in the week. He has no lingering discomfort in his left side. “I’m ready to roll,” he said. “Back to normal.” … OF Shin-Soo Choo hit against Barnette. On Friday, he took batting practice for the first time since August surgery to have a plate inserted for a fracture near the left wrist. Athletics: RHP Sonny Gray threw close to 50 pitches between his warmups and a simulated game with the hopes he still can get into a game situation before season’s end. Gray hasn’t pitched since Aug. 6 because of a strained right forearm. How Melvin uses him is still to be determined. “I know his routine suggests he’s used to starting,” Melvin said. “We’ll see.”
Rangers: RHP Colby Lewis (6-3, 3.40 ERA) seeks his first win in three starts since coming off a two-month stint on the disabled list with a back strain. Lewis, projected the No. 3 playoff starter, has won four straight starts at the Coliseum since June 2014 and is 7-2 with a 2.65 ERA in 12 outings in Oakland since returning to the U.S. from Japan in 2010.
Athletics: Rookie RHP Jharel Cotton (1-0, 1.50), another young pitcher chasing a rotation spot for 2017, has allowed one or fewer earned runs and pitched at least five innings in his first three major league starts.