Young: 'We definitely have a lot of confidence'
Josh Donaldson is batting .450 over an 11-game hit streak, which included a home run in Sunday's series finale. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
Tommy Milone improved to 11-9 after going five innings in Texas Sunday as he filled in for scheduled starter Jarrod Parker. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
ARLINGTON, Texas – The A’s biggest obstacle Sunday didn’t even involve the Texas Rangers.
In about a 20-minute span, they had top starting pitcher Jarrod Parker scratched from their lineup along with Yoenis Cespedes, arguably their most dangerous hitter.
That simply forced the A’s to invent a new way to frustrate the Texas Rangers. They plugged emergency starter Tommy Milone into the mix and the beat went on during a 5-1 victory that completed a three-game sweep for Oakland.
The A’s arrived in Arlington needing to hold down the fort and prevent Texas from taking a sizeable bite out of their division lead. They aimed higher and succeeded in a major way.
Oakland now leads the American League West by 6 ½ games over the Rangers and lowered its magic number for clinching the division to eight.
A key for the A’s in the series – getting off to a fast start. They scored in the first inning in each of the three games and put up two runs in the top of the first Sunday to put Texas in yet another hole. Incredibly, the Rangers never held a lead over their entire six-game homestand.
The A’s have won five straight and 16 of their past 20.
Starting pitching report
Tommy Milone had made just one appearance since being recalled from the minors Sept. 3, and it came in relief. Called into emergency action with Parker’s illness, the lefty stepped up big-time.
He lasted five innings and gave up just one run, which came in the first. It wasn’t easy, as he pitched with traffic in three different innings. But Milone stranded six runners and struck out five with just one walk. And consider that he entered the day 0-4 with a 5.67 ERA in five career starts against Texas.
Parker was scratched about 45 minutes before first pitch with an unspecified illness.
Sean Doolittle provided more terrific late-inning relief, retiring all four batters he faced bridging the seventh and eighth innings.
At the plate
A’s manager Bob Melvin has been pleased with his team’s situational hitting over the past several weeks, but the A’s didn’t cash in on all of their opportunities Sunday. They put runners on second and third with no outs in the fourth against Martin Perez (9-5) but failed to push a run across.
Alberto Callaspo struck out, Nate Freiman popped out to first and Josh Reddick got robbed when Craig Gentry made a running grab of his fly ball to left-center. Oakland also put the first two runners on in the seventh but couldn’t convert that into a run.
But there were good signs, too. Josh Donaldson hit his 23rd homer and finished the three-game series 4 for 8 with two homers, four runs and four RBI. He is riding an 11-game hitting streak during which he’s batting .450 (18 for 40). Chris Young, who started in left field, continues to take advantage of his playing time. He blasted a homer to left-center in the third to stretch the A’s lead to 3-1. Josh Reddick added a two-run homer in the ninth for insurance.
In the field
Right fielder Josh Reddick was Milone’s best friend in the second inning. With two on and one out, Ian Kinsler drove a ball deep to right-center that Reddick ran down for the catch. Jim Adduci was able to tag and advance to third, but fortunately for Milone, Elvis Andrus hit a liner right to second baseman Alberto Callaspo for the third out.
Texas flashed some nice ‘D’ of its own in the first, when Kinsler made a nice glove flip to Andrus to start a 4-6-3 double play off the bat of Jed Lowrie. Coco Crisp scored on the play for the A’s first run.
Not everyone in the Dallas area was glued to the Cowboys game. The A’s and Rangers played their final regular season matchup in front of an announced crowd of 42,980.
Sonny Gray (3-3, 2.63) is scheduled to start Monday’s opener of a three-game home series against the Angels. But Jarrod Parker will be re-inserted somewhere in this series after being scratched Sunday. It could be this game if he’s feeling better. C.J. Wilson (16-6, 3.44) draws the start -- on his favorite mound! -- for Los Angeles.