ARLINGTON (AP) – Trevor Cahill pitched seven strong innings to earn his sixth straight win to start the season and Josh Willingham homered and drove in five runs and the Oakland Athletics beat the Texas Rangers 7-2 Monday night.
Cahill (6-0) matched the major league lead with his sixth victory, and equaled his career best by winning his seventh consecutive decision. The 23-year-old right-hander struck out seven, walked one and allowed five hits. He became Oakland’s first 6-0 starter in 21 years.
Willingham, in the Oakland lineup after appealing his one-game suspension for making contact with an umpire, hit a three-run homer in the third put the Athletics ahead to stay.
The previous Athletics starting pitcher who began a season 6-0 was Dave Stewart in 1990. Six years later, reliever Jim Corsi finished the season with a 6-0 record for Oakland.
Cahill’s only crucial mistake was the first pitch he threw in the fifth, when Mitch Moreland pulled a homer into the second deck in right field.
Chris Davis followed Moreland’s fifth homer of the season with a single before Cahill retired his last nine batters, including four consecutive strikeouts during that span.
Cahill improved to 8-2 with a 2.18 ERA in 11 career starts against Texas — he has no more than four wins against any other team. Even more impressive is that the big right-hander is 3-0 with a 0.98 ERA (three earned runs over 27 2-3 innings) in four starts at hitter-friendly Rangers Ballpark.
Jered Weaver of the Los Angeles Angels already had six wins this season, and Detroit’s Max Scherzer improved to 6-0 with a win at Toronto on Monday night.
C.J. Wilson (4-2), coming off a complete game victory at Seattle last Wednesday, allowed only two hits over seven innings. But the left-hander walked five and hit another batter — and those accounted for four of the five runs against him. He struck out two.
Willingham’s sixth homer of the season, a 402-foot blast deep into the left-field seats, came after Wilson issued consecutive two-out walks. Wilson was gone after hitting Coco Crisp with a pitch to start the eighth and then walking Daric Barton for the second time in the game.
Major League Baseball earlier Monday suspended Willingham for one game and fined him an undisclosed amount for making contact with umpire Bill Miller during an argument of a called third strike Saturday night at Kansas City.
Willingham, who was ejected from that game, can keep playing until the appeal process is complete.
After Wilson came out, rookie Ryan Tucker failed to retire any of the four batters he faced. Tucker allowed a two-run single to Willingham that scored Crisp and Barton, and the right-hander left with the bases loaded. Mark Ellis then hit a deep sacrifice fly to left off Brett Tomko.
Since starting the season 9-1, the defending AL champion Rangers (18-18) have lost 17 of 26 games. They have slipped to third place in the AL West.
The A’s (19-17), who won three of four at home against Texas last week, are alone in second place behind the Angels.
The Rangers added an unearned run in the eighth on a throwing error by right fielder Conor Jackson, who missed the cutoff man after Michael Young’s single.
Oakland third baseman Andy LaRoche made a nice barehanded snag of Elvis Andrus’ slow chopper in the third, but his throw was nowhere near first base — and instead went into the Rangers dugout on the fly.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)