OAKLAND (AP) — A.J. Griffin’s day began with a disputed balk call that was eventually waved off. Turned out, that was about the only thing that went in his favor.
The right-hander gave up consecutive home runs to his former team in the second inning and retired only 10 batters as the Oakland Athletics beat Griffin and the Texas Rangers 8-3 on Sunday to complete a three-game sweep.
“Not the series we wanted to play,” Texas manager Jeff Banister said. “As we’re getting closer, less games to play, we’ve got to find a way to play clean baseball, pitch it well and capitalize on our run-scoring opportunities.”
The Rangers didn’t do much of that at all against the last-place A’s. Texas was outscored 19-7 in the series and managed only one home run after arriving with the major league lead.
Shin-Soo Choo hit his 16th homer Sunday and the Rangers added an unearned run but managed little else against Oakland starter Jharel Cotton and three relievers.
The loss dropped Texas three games behind Minnesota for the second AL wild card.
“We have a good group of guys here. We’ve got a really good team. Just got to erase that one,” Griffin said. “We were right there in it the whole time. Just wish I could have done my job a little better.”
Griffin (6-5) beat the A’s on April 17 but didn’t last long against them this time. He allowed three runs on five hits, struck out three and walked three before Banister pulled him after a one-out double by Bruce Maxwell in the fourth.
Adding to the Rangers’ woes was uncertainty over where they’ll play next.
Texas is scheduled to begin a three-game series against the Astros in Houston on Tuesday, but those plans were on hold because of severe flooding resulting from Hurricane Harvey. The Rangers will fly to Dallas — as will the Astros — until Major League Baseball figures out what to do.
Choo’s home run marked the first time someone other than Adrian Beltre had an RBI against the A’s in the series. Elvis Andrus added a run-scoring single in the eighth but Mike Napoli lined into an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded.
“Can’t hit the ball much harder than that,” Banister said. “Fortunately for the third baseman and their defense, it took him to his right and put him in line to get to the bag quickly.”
Cotton (7-10) matched his career high of nine strikeouts. He allowed one unearned run and pitched four-hit ball over six innings to win consecutive starts for the second time this season.
“I think everything was working for me — fastball, curveball, changeup,” Cotton said. “I found how to get better. I’m doing that right now, so it feels really good. Confidence is definitely rising.”
Blake Treinen retired five batters for his seventh save.
Matt Olson, the A’s rookie first baseman who spent most of the year in the minors, hit his ninth home run in 35 games off Griffin in the second. Two pitches later, Matt Chapman connected for his 10th.
BALKING AT THE BALK
Griffin was amused at being called for a balk in the first inning, even though he was not even close to the pitching rubber. Fortunately for him, second base umpire Lance Barksdale noticed and waved off the initial call. “I was 2 feet away,” Griffin said. “In the old days, if the second base umpire wasn’t there, they would have left it.”
WILD AND WACKY
Cotton threw a wild pitch in the second inning that was the 72nd this season by the A’s, tying a franchise record set in 1979.
Rangers: LHP Jake Diekman will pitch for Triple-A Round Rock on Monday while continuing a comeback from three abdominal operations.
Athletics: INF Jed Lowrie exited with a bruised left shin in the sixth. ... RHP Paul Blackburn is scheduled for an MRI on his right hand. Blackburn was hit by a line drive off the bat of Baltimore’s Trey Mancini on Tuesday.
Rangers: LHP Martin Perez (9-10, 5.00 ERA) is scheduled to start the series opener against the Astros following an off day Monday. Perez has won four straight after dropping three consecutive games.
Athletics: RHP Daniel Gossett (3-6, 5.49) continues his up-and-down season Monday at the Los Angeles Angels.