OAKLAND, Calif. — The Rangers’ impressive stretch of scoreless innings by the pitching staff ended with an emphatic thud Sunday.
More importantly, manager Jeff Banister’s ballclub missed a chance to hang onto its lead in the race for home-field advantage in the playoffs.
Not that there’s much concern in Texas’ clubhouse.
With their final six games at Globe Life Park — where they own the second-best home record in the AL — the Rangers are still confident heading into the final stretch of the regular season.
“It’s crucial,” Banister said after Oakland rookie Jharel Cotton pitched seven crisp innings to beat Rangers 7-1. “We need to go home and play clean baseball. We were able to get some guys rest, get some guys off their legs today, so they should be fresh going into tomorrow.”
The Rangers, who clinched the AL West on Friday, fell into a tie with the Boston Red Sox for home-field advantage in the playoffs. Texas (92-64) holds a slight tiebreaking advantage based on division record and will close out the regular season with a pair of three-game series against Milwaukee and Tampa Bay.
Things might not have been so tight had the Rangers been able to do anything against Cotton.
Adrian Beltre drove in the only run for Texas with his team-leading 32nd home run in the seventh. It was the 445th career home run for Beltre. The 37-year-old also singled to move past home run king Barry Bonds on the career hits list with 2,937.
Beyond that, the Rangers had just two singles and a double.
“That’s the first time we’ve seen (Cotton),” Banister said. “He’s got a special changeup . something we had not seen. When he’s got that working for him it does present a challenge when it’s the first time these guys have seen him.”
Ryon Healy had three hits, including a two-run homer, and Stephen Vogt drove in three runs to help the A’s win after being shut out in back-to-back games.
Oakland will be sitting out the postseason and had lost the first five games on this homestand, but ended it on an encouraging note behind Cotton (2-0). The rookie right-hander allowed one run, struck out five and faced two over the minimum while quieting the Rangers’ potent offense.
Cotton became the first A’s pitcher since at least 1913 to start his career with four consecutive starts of five innings or longer while allowing one earned run or less.
“I feel like it was a Sunday game and they wanted to get away,” Cotton said of the Rangers hitters. “I was on the mound like, ‘Thank you. Just keep swinging.’ That was good for me.”
Sean Doolittle and Ryan Dull pitched one inning apiece to complete the five-hitter.
The A’s did all of their scoring in the second to chase starter Colby Lewis (6-4).
Bruce Maxwell blooped an RBI single just past the outstretched glove of shortstop Hanser Alberto. Marcus Semien scored on a groundout and Vogt lined a three-run double to right before Healy’s 12th home run, a towering shot that put Oakland up 7-0.
That ended a streak of 23 consecutive scoreless innings by Texas pitchers.
LEWIS BEATEN BUT ENCOURAGED
Lewis, who had won four consecutive games at the Coliseum, lasted just 1 1/3 innings and allowed a season-high seven runs and seven hits. The right-hander has lost four consecutive decisions, three since a two-month stint on the disabled list.
“I felt great, the best I’ve felt in a long time,” Lewis said. “That’s the way it goes. I feel like I made a lot of good pitches. They just were able to drop balls in where our defenders weren’t. That’s about it.”
Athletics: Sonny Gray will come off the disabled list to make his first start in nearly two months against the Angels on Wednesday. Gray has not pitched in a game since Aug. 6 because of a forearm strain.
Rangers: LHP Martin Perez (10-10) faces the Brewers on Monday when Texas begins its final homestand of the regular season. Perez owns a 2.65 ERA at home, tied for the lowest in the AL among qualifying pitchers.
Athletics: Sean Manaea (6-9) starts against the Angels in Anaheim on Monday. The left-handed rookie has not allowed a run in 11 consecutive innings since missing more than two weeks with a sore back.
This story corrects the spelling to Banister throughout.