Athletics sweep Rangers to win AL West on last day
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Oakland Athletics had been down and doubted so many times during this remarkable year that a four-run deficit against the two-time reigning AL champions hardly fazed this get-after-it bunch.
They rallied, thanks to the same grit and determined, prove-you-wrong approach this group has demonstrated since Day 1.
From 13 games back on June 30 to AL West champions on the final day.
‘‘We knew all along we had the chance to do it,’’ right fielder Josh Reddick said. ‘‘We swept New York here, we swept Boston here. Doing it to these guys was never out of the question.’’
The A’s captured their first division crown in six years with another improbable rally in a season full of them, coming back once more to stun the Texas Rangers 12-5 Wednesday.
The A’s needed a sweep and they delivered. They overcame a five-game deficit in the final nine days and took sole possession of the West’s top spot for the first time this year.
‘‘I don’t think a single one of us was worried,’’ said Brandon Moss, who drove in three runs. ‘‘We weren’t supposed to be here, for one. For two, they were the ones with everything to lose today. They had the division lead almost all season and they were trying to cling to it. We had nothing to lose. Everything was ours to win.’’
Josh Hamilton dropped a fly ball in center field for a two-run error that put the A’s (94-68) ahead 7-5 in a six-run fourth inning. The A’s only added to Texas’ troubles the rest of the way.
The A’s are Motown-bound again.
While Hamilton’s Rangers (93-69) are headed to the new one-game, wild-card playoff at home against Baltimore on Friday, the A’s get two days off before opening the division series at Detroit on Saturday in their first postseason appearance since being swept by the Tigers in the 2006 AL championship series.
It was snowing in Detroit when the A’s arrived in the Motor City that time.
‘‘It’s going to be a tough matchup,’’ manager Bob Melvin said. ‘‘They have a very powerful lineup that can certainly score some runs. They also have great starting pitching. We will have our work cut out for us.’’
Grant Balfour retired Michael Young on a fly to center for the final out, then raised his arms in the air as the A’s streamed out of the dugout and began bouncing up and down in the infield.
‘‘2012 AL WEST CHAMPIONS’’ flashed on the scoreboard two days after the A’s clinched a playoff spot Monday and held a wild dance party in the clubhouse.
‘‘I'm glad there’s not one tomorrow or Friday,’’ owner Lew Wolff said. ‘‘I can relax and go home. I'm running out of underwear.’’
Players high-fived fans while taking a victory lap through the rundown Coliseum, where the outfield still has a light patch of grass from football in the venue shared by the NFL’s Raiders.
Soon, the celebratory champagne and beer made its way to the field — and players sprayed it into the stands. The A’s returned to the field almost an hour later to greet fans still gathered along the top of the dugout.
Oakland pulled off another remarkable performance in a season defined by thrilling walkoffs, rallies and whipped-cream pie celebrations by a team that was never supposed to be here.
A club that trailed Texas by 13 games on June 30. A club with a $59.5 million payroll, lowest in baseball. General manager Billy Beane found ways to get a blue-collar franchise back to the playoffs.
‘‘It shows how important Game 162 is,’’ Oakland’s Jonny Gomes said. ‘‘I don’t think it took 162 to games to check the character of this ballclub.’’
Coco Crisp hit a tying two-run double in the fourth against Derek Holland (12-7). Moss hit a two-run single in the four-run eighth.
Rookie winning pitcher Evan Scribner (2-0) left the mound in the sixth to a standing ovation from the sellout crowd of 30,067. He allowed two hits and struck out two in three scoreless innings after replacing struggling starter A.J. Griffin.
Ryan Cook, pitching for a fifth consecutive game, gave up a double to Nelson Cruz before retiring the next three Texas hitter, including strikeouts of David Murphy and Mike Napoli. Catcher Derek Norris pumped his right arm as the Coliseum fans jumped to their feet.
Norris then homered leading off the bottom of the eighth for his second RBI. It was his seventh homer and Oakland’s majors-leading 112th since the All-Star break.
‘‘Ever since Day 1 I've been here, it’s been, the A’s can’t compete with the payroll, can’t compete with this team or that team,’’ Norris said. ‘‘We’re better off if we’re down. It just gives us the extra energy.’’Continued...