(Reuters) - The Texas Rangers became the first team in the Major Leagues to reach 50 wins this season by dismantling the Oakland Athletics 7-2 in Arlington on Saturday, giving rookie Venezuelan starter Martin Perez a victorious debut.
In a powerful display, Adrian Beltre (14) and Josh Hamilton (25) both added to their home run tally in relegating the A’s to 37-42, now 13 games adrift of Texas in the American League West.
The Rangers fell behind in the second and fourth innings but exploded with a five-run burst in the bottom of the fifth, including a three-run blast by Hamilton off A’s starter Tommy Milone, to take charge and improve to 50-29 for the season.
“He threw me a cutter and it ran across the middle of the plate,” Hamilton told reporters.
“I was able to stay square and stay on it and put a good swing on it. It’s good to get those types of hits, home runs, just to remind you and reinforce that you don’t have to pull the ball to hit it out of the ballpark. Just go with the pitch.”
The highly touted Perez, in his first time out as a starter, managed five-and-a-third innings, allowing two runs and six hits while striking out five.
Chris Carter gave Oakland fans something to cheer with a solo home run in the second inning to get the scoreboard ticking over but Beltre responded with one of his own to quickly tie things back up at 1-1.
Carter was once again in the thick of it two innings later when he doubled, advanced to third on a wild pitch and then made it home off a Brandon Inge single to establish a 2-1 lead.
But an error-riddled fifth inning opened the door for the Rangers and they smashed through it to take the game away from the visitors.
Inge bobbled a ground ball from Nelson Cruz to trigger the demise and while Cruz was later called out gunning for home, the play left two men in scoring position and Ian Kinsler duly batted them in for a 3-2 lead.
The A’s then added to their woes when shortstop Brandon Hicks fumbled a ground ball from Elvis Andrus, bringing Hamilton to the plate to bang out his 25th homer.
He became the fastest player to 25 home runs in Rangers history, matching his homer total from last year, and then added to his Major League-leading total of 73 RBIs by driving in Craig Gentry in the seventh to complete the scoring.
The Rangers have now won five straight and 13 of their last 15 games and with the LA Angels’ loss to the Blue Jays on Saturday, extended their American League West lead to 6 1/2 games.
They finished June with a 19-9 mark and hold the Major League’s best record.
Reporting by Ben Everill in Los Angeles; Editing by John O'Brien