By Anthony Andro, The Sports Xchange
ARLINGTON, Texas — The Texas Rangers were able to rely on their best pitcher of the second half of the season to end their longest losing streak of 2017.
Left-hander Martin Perez (13-12) carried a shutout into the seventh inning as the Rangers snapped a seven-game slide with a 5-3 victory over the Oakland Athletics on Friday.
The win assured the Rangers of a better record than the A’s, who will finish last in the American League West for the third consecutive year.
Perez, who leads the Rangers in wins, innings pitched and starts, allowed just two hits over the first six innings and then held on for his eighth victory since the start of August.
Perez finished the year with eight quality starts in his last 11 outings. On Friday he was dominant early and the Rangers built a 5-0 lead after six innings.
Oakland made it a 5-3 game on the first career homer by Renato Nunez in the seventh, but by that time Perez had done enough for the Rangers to turn the game over to a bullpen that notched three scoreless innings.
While there will be no postseason for Texas, the season will end with a confident Perez.
“I find my rhythm and I feel something right now that I’ve never felt before,” said Perez. “I’m just going to work a lot on my mechanics so I don’t lose the feeling I have. It was fun, the last two months, and it gives a lot of wins to my team. We don’t make the playoffs but we finished strong.”
Texas, which had also lost seven straight games to Oakland, jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first after Shin-Soo Choo and Elvis Andrus reached base ahead of Nomar Mazara. Mazara then lined a shot to third that Matt Chapman couldn’t come up with, scoring both runners.
The Rangers took charge in the fifth on a two-run homer from Choo. His 22nd homer also ended the night for Raul Alcantara (1-2), who was charged with four runs on five hits in 4 1/3 innings. Rookie Willie Calhoun added an RBI single in the fifth as Texas collected five hits in the frame.
Perez was cruising until the seventh. A walk and a single opened the frame, and Nunez drilled a three-run homer to right-center for his first major league homer. That blast ended the night for Perez, who allowed three runs on five hits. He struck out two and walked two.
“Early on pounding the strike zone, using the curveball, slider to get back into counts,” Texas manager Jeff Banister said. “He (Perez) built tonight onto what he’s done in the second half. He has been as good a pitcher as we’ve had in the second half, really making a statement for himself.”
Oakland threatened in the eighth, but Jake Diekman struck out Nunez with the bases loaded. Alex Claudio registered his 11th save by working around a one-out single in the ninth.
Alcantara, who has been used as a spot starter for the A’s, ran out of steam more than he ran out of pitches.
“He had good stuff again today,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. “The home run (to Choo) was his undoing, gave up a couple runs there. Not used to throwing that many pitches, but I thought he finished off on a good note. He was hitting 96 again. Whether he’s a starter or reliever, he shows back in the mix with us.”
Alcantara, who was designated for assignment earlier this year, felt like he showed he belonged with the A’s, too. He had a 3.18 ERA in his five appearances since Sept. 5.
“I think it was a great opportunity for me to go out and show the team they can count on me and they can use me,” he said.
The five runs scored are the most the Rangers have scored in a game since they had eight in a Sept. 20 game against Seattle.
Texas finished with eight hits, with Calhoun going 3-for-4 and Mazara adding two hits.
Oakland finished with seven hits.