Page last updated on Sun Nov 29 09:07:33 EST 2015
10/04/2012 12:31 AM EDT
Athletics sweep Rangers to win AL West on last day

AP Baseball Writer

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Same chaotic, champagne dance-party scene
in the clubhouse just two days later. New T-shirt: AL West

The Oakland Athletics won the division title with another
improbable rally in a season full of them, coming back from four
runs down and a 13-game division deficit to stun the two-time
defending league champion Texas Rangers 12-5 on Wednesday.

"We knew this is a beast of a team we would have to beat, and to
be able to beat them three games in a row and win the division
on top of it, really it's a magical-type thing," manager Bob
Melvin said.

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

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 off before opening the division series at
Detroit on Saturday in their first postseason appearance since

"You can have all the experience as you want but when you run
into a team that's hot, experience has nothing to do with it,"
Texas manager Ron Washington said.

The A's needed a sweep and they delivered to win their first
division crown in six years and 15th in all. 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.

"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."

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 for the first time since being swept by Detroit in the
2006 AL championship series.

Coco Crisp hit a tying two-run double in the fourth against
Derek Holland (12-7) and Brandon Moss drove in three runs,
including 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
hitters with 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."

The A's join the NL West champion San Francisco Giants as
division champions. The Bay Area is already buzzing about a
possible Bay Bridge World Series like the 1989 championship
swept by Oakland, one interrupted by an earthquake.

Hamilton's miscue while charging forward might haunt the to-be
free agent if his Rangers don't get past their wild-card game.

"I just missed it, man," Hamilton said. "You guys have a hard
time believing we can forget about it and move ahead. But that's
what we get paid to do."

Murphy's two-run single highlighted a five-run third inning that
put Texas in prime position.

In the fourth, Moss drew a leadoff walk and Josh Reddick
followed with an RBI double. Josh Donaldson singled and Seth
Smith's base hit made it 5-3 and chased Ryan Dempster with none
out and runners on first and second.

Washington turned to the lefty Holland, a starter who was tagged
for four runs in the first inning of the second game of Sunday's
doubleheader with the Angels before working into the seventh.

He retired the first two batters before Crisp's double down the
right-field line.

The only other teams to come back from at least 13 games down to
win the division were the 1914 Boston Braves, the 1951 New York
Giants, the `78 Yankees and the `95 Seattle Mariners.

Oakland accomplished this with an ever-changing roster managed
by Melvin in his first full season as skipper. They lost third
baseman Scott Sizemore to a knee injury on the first full day of
spring training workouts, never promoted slugger Manny Ramirez
from the minors before parting ways, and dealt with devastating
injuries all year long.

Opening day starter Brandon McCarthy took a line drive to the
head Sept. 5 that required surgery and ended his season, Brett
Anderson missed most of the year coming off Tommy John surgery,
and Dallas Braden never pitched because of shoulder problems.
Starter Bartolo Colon received a 50-game suspension in August
for a positive testosterone test.

Third baseman Brandon Inge needed shoulder surgery last month
and prized Cuban rookie Yoenis Cespedes missed time with a pair
of injuries in May and June.

And that's just the beginning for a team that traded away
catcher Kurt Suzuki to the Nationals during the year after
swapping three top pitchers during the offseason - Trevor Cahill
to Arizona, NL Cy Young Award favorite and 21-game winner Gio
Gonzalez to Washington and All-Star closer Andrew Bailey to

"There hasn't been a lot of luck involved," said Beane, who
received a celebratory pie in the face. "The one thing about
baseball, when you play 161 games, you don't get lucky this late
in the season. There have been a lot of adjustments on the fly."

NOTES: The A's, whose 14 walkoff victories lead baseball, won
their seventh game this year after trailing by four or more
runs. ... The A's won the season series 11-8, just the second
time in seven seasons they've done so. ... The sellout crowd
included 1,000 standing-room only tickets. ... Holland pitched
in relief for the second time this year.

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