OAKLAND, Calif. — Manager Jeff Banister gave most of his regulars the day off Saturday against Oakland, one day after the Texas Rangers clinched the American League West crown and celebrated late into the night after beating the A’s.
But starting shortstop Elvis Andrus asked Banister to stay in the lineup, and the Rangers were fortunate he did.
Andrus hit a pair of two-run homers, Yu Darvish pitched seven strong innings and the Rangers rolled to a 5-0 victory against the A’s at the Oakland Coliseum.
“I’ve been kind of sick a little bit with the flu,” Andrus said. “Yesterday, unfortunately, that was the first time I couldn’t celebrate with the guys or go out after the game and celebrate. I was like, ‘Might as well play tomorrow. I won’t be able to celebrate the right way.'”
Andrus had played 1,215 games over eight major league seasons without a multi-homer day until Saturday. He drove in a career high-tying four runs and set a new single-season high for home runs with eight, passing his previous mark of seven in 2015. Andrus also set a new single-season mark for RBIs with 68, surpassing his old high of 67 in 2013.
“He played with great energy and focus,” Banister said. “Good thing he was in the lineup.”
Andrus hit a two-run shot with one out in the second inning and a two-run blast with
two outs in the sixth, both off A’s rookie right-hander Raul Alcantara (1-2).
Darvish (6-5) allowed two hits while striking out nine and walking one, one week after giving up seven runs in an 11-2 loss to Oakland and Alcantara in Arlington.
Darvish went 1-2 with a 6.04 ERA in his previous five starts, but he looked ready for the postseason on Saturday. He matched his season high for innings pitched and season low for hits allowed.
Darvish also improved to 3-9 for his career against Oakland and beat the A’s at the Coliseum for the first time in five starts, improving to 1-3.
“I didn’t pitch well against Oakland,” Darvish said of his previous start. “I don’t have a good history over here. But being here and to pitch well against those guys, that gives me extra confidence going toward the playoffs.”
Darvish missed the entire 2015 season and the first 48 games this year while recovering from Tommy John surgery. He spent another stint on the disabled list with a sore right shoulder before being reinstated July 16 after missing 32 games.
Banister said Darvish looked more confident in his arm than in any other game this season.
“The fastball was electric today,” Banister said. “He had it anywhere from 98 (mph) to 90.”
Left fielder Jared Hoying went 2-for-4 with two doubles and scored two runs for the Rangers.
Alcantara allowed four runs on seven hits over six innings. He struck out six, walked one and left the game after throwing 79 pitches.
Alcantara said he was surprised by Andrus’ power.
“He’s a batter that has a lot of bloopers,” Alcantara said through an interpreter. “I felt good. My pitches were good. Those two pitches really affected me. That’s what cost me today.”
After going 6-1 on their recent road trip, the A’s have lost five straight games at home.
“We were scoring runs in bunches,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “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.”
The Rangers took a 2-0 lead in the top of the second inning. Hoying hit an opposite-field double to left with one out and Andrus launched Alcantara’s 2-2 pitch just over the center-field fence, left of the 400-foot mark.
In the sixth inning, Ryan Rua singled with one out. Then with two outs, Andrus sent Alcantara’s 0-1 pitch high and deep down the left field line, barely staying fair for his eighth home run of the season.
“I was just praying it would stay inside,” Andrus said. “I was blowing that ball inside. I was glad it stayed fair.”
Hoying led off the ninth with a double and scored on Robinson Chirinos’ double, making it 5-0.