ARLINGTON (AP) – The Texas Rangers were set for a rare weekday afternoon sellout, fueled by thousands of schoolchildren getting a break from their routine.

Manager Ron Washington figures the kids would like to see Josh Hamilton in October, too, so he sat Hamilton and stuck with his plan to rest his key starters.

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Hamilton was out of Thursday’s starting lineup against Oakland, his first absence since a hot streak that vaulted him to the major league lead in all three Triple Crown categories. He was the last of five Rangers players to sit during a four-game stretch that ended against the A’s.

“It was as simple as it was to give the rest of them a day off,” Washington said. “Those are the guys that’s going to take us where we have to go.”

The crowd of 47,182 did get a chance to see Hamilton when he appeared as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning. He grounded out, then replaced Craig Gentry in center field in the ninth.

The former AL MVP has cooled off some since hitting .467 (14 of 30) with two doubles, nine homers and 18 RBIs over seven games. The run was sparked by the 16th four-homer game in major league history May 8 at Baltimore.

Homerless in his past four games, Hamilton still has a 16-game hitting streak, longest in the majors this year. He entered Thursday leading all of baseball in average (.404), homers (18) and RBIs (45).

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During a pair of two-game series against Kansas City and Oakland, Rangers manager Ron Washington has already rested Ian Kinsler, Michael Young, Mike Napoli and Nelson Cruz. The Rangers were swept by the Royals but had a chance to sweep the A’s on Thursday.

Texas is in the middle of a stretch of 20 games in 20 days. The Rangers got a break with a rainout in Baltimore last week, but had to play a doubleheader the next day. Their next scheduled off day is May 24.

“I’m not used to days off,” said Young, who sat Wednesday and was the DH in Hamilton’s traditional third spot in the order Thursday. “I like to get out there every day. But rest if always a good thing.”

Hamilton, who didn’t appear in the clubhouse when it was open to reporters before Thursday’s game, left early April 29 against Tampa Bay because of back spasms. He missed the next three games at Toronto, but his absence appeared precautionary because the Rangers were playing a rare series on artificial turf.

The four-time All-Star played only 89 games in 2009 because of an abdominal tear and a pinched nerve in his back. He missed a month of his MVP season in 2010 with broken ribs after crashing into an outfield wall making a catch. He was out six weeks last year after he broke a bone in his arm diving headfirst trying to score on a foul popout, and had surgery for a sports hernia after the World Series.

Hamilton led the AL with 130 RBIs in 2008, his first season with the Rangers. He led the league with a .359 average in 2010, when the Rangers won their first AL pennant.

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