ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Josh Hamilton hasn’t been fazed by his June woes at the plate.
The Texas Rangers slugger put those struggles behind him in the fifth inning, coming through with a powerful swing to help make 21-year-old Martin Perez a winner in his first career start. He hit a three-run home run to cap a big inning and the Rangers extended their winning streak to five games, beating the Oakland Athletics 7-2 on Saturday night.
“I’m doing absolutely nothing differently,” said Hamilton, who finished with four RBIs. “It’s just baseball. You go through spurts like that.”
Hamilton came in hitting just .211 with 34 strikeouts in 90 June at-bats. However, he finished the month with a flurry.
On a 1-0 pitch from Tommy Milone in the fifth, his three-run shot into the visiting bullpen in left-center, gave the Rangers a 6-2 lead. It was his 25th of the season, equaling his total from last season.
Texas (50-29) became the first team in baseball to reach 50 victories. The Rangers have won 17 of 21 since June 8.
Texas extended its American League West lead to 6 games over the Los Angeles Angels.
“Just trying to continue to play good baseball, and we are,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “It takes everybody to continue it.”
Perez (1-0) allowed two runs and struck out five in 5 1/3 innings. The left-hander gave up six hits and walked one. Perez left the game to a warm ovation from the sellout crowd. Washington greeted his young lefty with a hug in the dugout.
The Rangers decided to start Perez despite a rough major league debut in relief Wednesday. He allowed four runs and retired only two batters in a 13-9 victory over Detroit. He went 5-5 with a 4.59 ERA in 15 starts this season with Triple-A Round Rock.
“When I went to the mound at first, I felt a little tension.” Martin said through a translator. “I was able to control everything and I did my job.”
Oakland committed two errors in the fifth that led to five unearned runs, including a miscue from shortstop Brandon Hicks right before Hamilton came up to bat.
Milone (8-6) gave up six runs — only one earned — in five innings.
Other than Adrian Beltre’s solo homer in the fourth, the Rangers had a hard time against Milone before Oakland’s defense unraveled in the fifth.
“You can’t do that here,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. “With that lineup and in this park, you can’t give them freebies.”
Nelson Cruz reached on Brandon Inge’s error at third and Mike Napoli singled. Milone recorded consecutive outs without letting a run score.
Ian Kinsler lifted a bloop single just over Inge’s head to bring in two runs and push Texas ahead 3-2. Hicks then booted Elvis Andrus’ grounder to set the stage for Hamilton.
Hamilton became the fastest Rangers player to reach 25 homers, accomplishing the feat in 79 team games. The slugger added an RBI single in the seventh.
“We’ve always had at least one big inning in a game,” Hamilton said. “That’s kind of been our deal.”
Chris Carter homered in his second straight game since being recalled from Triple-A, and Inge had an RBI single that gave the A’s a 2-1 lead in the fourth.
NOTES: Washington has made his manager’s selections for the AL All-Star team. “It’s done,” he said. “It wasn’t as stressful this time around. Overall, it was smooth.” The All-Star teams for both leagues will be announced Sunday. … Oakland manager Bob Melvin said Bartolo Colon may start Tuesday after the right-hander threw a bullpen session Saturday. Colon (strained right oblique) has been on the DL since June 18. … Texas RHP Yu Darvish (10-4) takes the mound looking for his 11th victory Sunday. He will be opposed by Oakland LHP Travis Blackley (1-2). … Texas’ Yoshinori Tateyama and Michael Kirkman combined for 3 2/3 shutout innings out of the bullpen.