ARLINGTON, Texas — The AL West-leading Oakland A’s arrived in Texas hoping to win the series.
They did a whole lot more than that.
After their starting pitcher was scratched only an hour before the game, and their top slugger also was taken out of the lineup, the Athletics kept winning. Tommy Milone threw five solid innings and Oakland hit three home runs in a 5-1 win Sunday to complete a three-game sweep of the chasing and slumping Texas Rangers.
“I don’t know that we could have asked much more than that,” manager Bob Melvin said. “Once you win two games, you want to get greedy and we had some things pop up before the game.”
Even without right-hander Jarrod Parker and Yoenis Cespedes, Oakland took a commanding 6 1/2-game division lead with two weeks left after the final regular-season series between the AL West’s top two teams. The A’s have won five in a row and 13 of 16 overall.
“We came in and won the games,” said Josh Donaldson, who hit one of the homers. “Great baseball all the way around for our team.”
Chris Young and Josh Reddick also homered for Oakland, which finished a 5-1 trip and opens its final homestand of the regular season Monday against the Los Angeles Angels.
Texas lost its sixth in a row, all at home and never leading in any of them, and is 2-11 in September after beginning the month with a two-game lead. Coupled with a sweep by Pittsburgh, this was the Rangers’ first winless homestand of at least six games since moving to Texas in 1972.
“Just as quickly as it started, it can turn around. It’s got to,” general manager Jon Daniels said. “We’re in a pretty congested wild-card race right now.”
The Rangers and Tampa Bay are tied for the two AL wild-card spots in a rapidly tightening race. Cleveland, Baltimore, the Yankees and Kansas City are all within 3 1/2 games of Texas and the Rays.
Texas starts a four-game series at Tropicana Field on Monday.
“I’m not frustrated with the way we played,” manager Ron Washington, putting emphasis on how he felt about the Oakland series. “In the first game, we had chances. The second day, we had chances in a 1-0 ball game. ... It wasn’t like they came in and dominated and we didn’t have chances.”
Milone (11-9) struck out five and allowed only one run after Parker was scratched because of illness.
“He’s pitched once in 14 days and has to go up against the lineup, in this ballpark, and gives us five innings and one run. That was pretty spectacular,” Melvin said.
The left-hander, recalled Sept. 3 from Class A Stockton for his third stint with the A’s this season, made his first career relief appearance Wednesday night.
Cespedes was batting fourth as the DH in the original A’s lineup, but didn’t play because of right shoulder soreness. Melvin said the slugger would have an MRI on Monday.
Coco Crisp and Chris Young had consecutive singles off rookie left-hander Martin Perez (9-5) to start the game.
Crisp scored on a nifty double play, when second baseman Ian Kinsler went up the middle and without touching the ball with his hand scooped it with his glove to shortstop Elvis Andrus, who made a barehanded grab and relay throw.
Donaldson extended his hitting streak to 11 games with his 23rd homer for a 2-0 lead. Young hit a two-out solo homer in the third, Reddick hit a two-run homer in the ninth.
Perez allowed three runs and seven hits over 6 1-3 innings.
A.J. Pierzynski had an RBI single in the first, but had an infield popout to end the seventh with two runners on base. That was the third time in four innings the Rangers stranded two runners, including Kinsler taking a called third strike to end the fourth.
Milone was 0-4 with a 5.67 ERA his previous five career starts against the Rangers, losing twice earlier this season when allowing 17 hits and 12 runs over nine innings.
But he didn’t know he was pitching against them again until about an hour before taking the mound.
“I think it kind of helped, I didn’t really think about it too much,” Milone said. “By time I officially heard, it was just get ready and go.”
NOTES: Melvin said there was a chance Parker could start Monday. Parker is 9-0 in his last 19 starts since a loss at Texas on May 22, the longest winning streak by an Oakland pitcher since Dan Haren won 10 in a row in 2008. The last Athletics pitcher with a longer unbeaten streak was Lefty Grove’s 21 starts in a row without a loss in 1931. ... The Rangers have gone six games without a home run, their longest drought since six in 1995. It is the first time they’ve gone six consecutive games at Rangers Ballpark without homering. The stadium is in its 20th season.