OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Joe Blanton broke away early from his pregame throwing to greet his mother and aunt and offer a little advice before they each threw out a ceremonial first pitch.
"I told them not to worry how hard they threw, just locate," Blanton said.Blanton won his third straight start, Nick Swisher homered for the third straight game and Dan Johnson connected twice, leading the Oakland Athletics past the Texas Rangers 7-3 on Saturday.It was fitting Blanton was on the mound for the A's annual Breast Cancer Awareness Day. His mother, Carolyn, and aunt, Dottie, are both survivors -- and Blanton would have caught their throws had he not been finishing his preparations."It was awesome," Blanton said. "I was a little pumped up in the first inning. It was awesome to see them be able to go out and throw the first pitch. It made it even more special I was able to pitch on that day and do well."Johnson hit solo shots in the fourth and sixth innings for his third career multihomer game and second this season, then singled in two runs in Oakland's three-run seventh.A's manager Bob Geren has noticed Johnson's improved confidence with his recent success."I've been feeling better at the plate and focusing on how to get back where I need to be to produce," Johnson said. "It's been paying off recently."Mark Ellis doubled in a run and Jack Cust added an RBI single for the A's, who have won the first three games in this four-game set between the bottom two teams in the AL West.Blanton (14-9) didn't allow a hit until Jason Botts lined a single to right to start the fifth, the first of three straight base hits. David Murphy had an RBI single and the Rangers scored another run when Jarrod Saltalamacchia grounded into a double play that made it 3-2.Murphy doubled in the eighth and was the lone Texas player with multiple hits off Blanton, whose single to Saltalamacchia one batter later in the eighth ended his day. Blanton received a warm standing ovation when he walked off the mound."I thought that was a very special day," Geren said. "I told [his mother] we couldn't have planned it any better that he was pitching."Swisher connected for his 22nd home run of the year with two outs in the third and he now has five homers and nine RBIs over his last seven games.The A's, the defending division champions who reached the AL championship series last season, would be eliminated from playoff contention with one more loss or an Angels win. First-place Los Angeles had a night game in Chicago against the White Sox.Texas' Michael Young went 0-for-4 to have his career-best 14-game hitting streak snapped, and it was a far different game a day after the teams combined for 20 runs in Oakland's 11-9 win. The Rangers lost their fifth straight."This is disappointing," outfielder Marlon Byrd said. "We're better than this. The veterans and Wash [manager Ron Washington] expected to win this series."Both benches were warned after Rangers reliever Bill White plunked Swisher with two outs in the seventh. White was booed when he gave way to Luis Mendoza later in the inning.Blanton extended his winning streak over Texas to six games and he is 6-2 in 10 career starts and 11 appearances against the Rangers, who have not beaten him since July 16, 2005.Blanton had four of his six strikeouts in the first three innings, throwing only 43 pitches and allowing his only walk. He gave up five hits and three runs. Dallas Braden struck out pinch-hitter Sammy Sosa but then walked Guillermo Quinoz to load the bases before Alan Embree relieved. Ian Kinsler followed with a sacrifice fly before Young's third groundout of the game.Embree got the final five outs for his 17th save.Rangers starter Brandon McCarthy (5-10) lost his third straight decision and went only three innings. He was on a pitch count of about 50 coming in, and was done after 52.The right-hander allowed two runs on three hits, struck out three and walked one. McCarthy returned from the disabled list Tuesday and lasted only two-thirds of an inning in the shortest start of his career.
More than 300 breast cancer survivors took the field before the game to produce a pink awareness ribbon. A moment of silence was held, then the women released pink balloons after the anthem. The A's raised more than $112,500 for breast cancer research. ... Rangers RHP Armando Galarraga made his major league debut in the eighth. ... Swisher has scored at least one run in 10 straight games, and he has six home runs and eight RBIs vs. Texas this year. ... Johnson also hit two homers on May 10 at Kansas City. ... Blanton, who has walked two or fewer batters in each of his last 19 starts, made his 100th career appearance.