OAKLAND -- The Rangers, after avoiding a perfect game being thrown against them by Athletics starter Kendall Graveman, have wrapped up their seventh American League West title.
The Rangers did that behind the pitching of Cole Hamels with a 3-0 victory on Friday night at the Coliseum. Adrian Beltre's two-run home run was the big blow that allowed the Rangers to celebrate a division title with eight games to go.
"This is only stage one," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "There's so much more that these guys want to accomplish. I'm proud of them. I'm glad that we got it done tonight. I wish we could have done it in front of our home fans, but I know there are some people back in Texas that stayed up and watched this.
"It's an incredible surreal feeling, but again, we've got a lot left to play for to finish out this season."
Graveman took a perfect game into the seventh inning before the Rangers scored three runs off him.
"You look at the lineup, you've flipped it around, retired 18 straight," said Graveman. "You just try to continue to make pitches. I think we did, just got beat on it."
Hamels pitched seven scoreless innings, allowing six hits and two walks while striking out seven. He is now 10-3 with a 2.40 ERA in 16 road starts. That's the fourth-lowest road ERA in club history.
The Rangers are still playing for the best record in the AL and hold a half-game advantage over the Indians and a one-game lead over the Red Sox in that race.
"It feels great," Beltre said. "Obviously we worked hard to be where we are right now. "Obviously only the first step for what we want to accomplish."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Gomez breaks up no-hitter: Graveman retired the first 18 batters he faced before Carlos Gomez hit a high chopper over third baseman Ryon Healy. Shortstop Marcus Semien fielded it on the outfield grass, but Gomez beat the throw for an infield single. He went to third on a hit-and-run single by Ian Desmond and scored on Carlos Beltran's grounder to first. Beltre followed with his 31st home run.
"He was throwing the ball well," Beltre said of Graveman. "He was commanding the fastball and keeping us off balance. We got lucky, found a couple of holes and scored enough to win."
Missed opportunities: The A's appeared primed to score the game's first run in the fourth inning, after putting runners on first and second with one out. But Jake Smolinski promptly bounced into an inning-ending double play. Oakland finished the game 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position and stranded seven runners on base.
"It looked like we had [Hamels] on the run early," said A's manager Bob Melvin. " We had some good swings off him early, and it looked like he was a little frustrated with where he was throwing the baseball. Then after about the third inning, he started mixing it up. He was tough to deal with."
Rangers' relay gets Nunez:Renato Nunez, running from first base, tried to score on a two-out double by Chad Pinder in the right-center-field gap. But Nomar Mazara cut the ball off before it got to the wall and relayed it to second baseman Rougned Odor. Odor made a strong throw to catcher Jonathan Lucroy to get Nunez at the plate.
"Great job cutting off the ball and a great throw," Lucroy said. "We were able to knock that one down and keep them off the board."
Perfect game bid ends painfully: Graveman showed why he's been the most consistent A's starting pitcher this season, retiring the first 18 batters he faced. But the Rangers erupted in the seventh inning, knocking four base hits, including a two-run home run from Beltre. Graveman hasn't recorded a win since Aug. 24.
"We're not the only team he knocks runs in against," Melvin said of Beltre. "He's got guys behind him. All the way through their lineup they have guys who can hit." More >
"If they are out there watching it, hopefully they take away how good of a feeling that is and what it looks like." -- Melvin, on his players watching the Rangers celebrate winning a division crown at their ballpark
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This is the second time the Rangers have clinched a division title in Oakland. They clinched here in 2010, also in the 154th game of season. Those two clinchers are tied for the earliest the Rangers have secured a division title.
WHAT'S NEXT Rangers: Right-hander Yu Darvish will start for the Rangers against the Athletics at 3:05 p.m. CT Saturday at the Coliseum. Darvish, who is 2-9 with a 5.07 ERA in 13 career starts against Oakland, is 1-2 with a 6.04 ERA in his last five outings.
A's: Right-hander Raul Alcantara will take the mound when the A's and Rangers resume their three-game series Saturday at 1:05 p.m. PT. Alcantara earned his first Major League victory in his last start against the Rangers, allowing just two earned runs on five hits in 5 2/3 innings.