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09/22/2013 9:12 PM EDT
Athletics beat Twins 11-7, capture AL West again
OAKLAND 11, MINNESOTA 7

By ANTONIO GONZALEZ
AP Sports Writer

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Wearing a gold robe and swim goggles,
bearded right fielder Josh Reddick ran around the Oakland
Athletics clubhouse guzzling beer as bubbly sprayed in every
direction.

A.J. Griffin grabbed anybody he could to dance with in the
middle of the room. Manager Bob Melvin stood in the hallway and
stayed dry for a while, just smiling and soaking up the scene.

His T-shirt said it all: "We Own The West."

Coco Crisp hit a three-run homer, Daric Barton and Jed Lowrie
each had a solo shot and the A's wrapped up their second
straight AL West title while overpowering the Minnesota Twins
11-7 Sunday.

"The only bad part about this is our clubhouse is going to stink
for about two weeks," Reddick said.

Oswaldo Arcia homered and drove in six runs for Minnesota. But
the Twins were just the latest team the A's turned into a
footnote during another scintillating September run.

The A's clinched their 16th division crown and 25th postseason
appearance when Texas lost 4-0 at Kansas City during the game.

Sonny Gray (4-3) gave up four runs and seven hits in five
innings for Oakland, calling it "one of the most nerve-racking
starts I've ever had." The A's scored six runs in the second
inning and one in each of the next five to set the stage for
their own celebration.

Evan Scribner struck out Josmil Pinto swinging for the final
out. The A's sprinted out of the dugout, jumping around in their
gold uniforms to turn the infield into a blur.

For the A's, it was a far-less dramatic scene than a year ago,
when they won the AL West on the final day of the regular season
by beating Texas to complete a series sweep.

"I think last year we surprised a lot of people," third baseman
Josh Donaldson said. "I think this year we're an all-around
better team and we feel like we belong."

This year's postseason push - sealed with a week to spare - was
less surprising but equally remarkable.

The A's had the fourth-lowest opening day payroll at about $65
million. They have a roster full of mostly anonymous and
up-and-coming players. And their home is an old, dual-sport
stadium where sewage has leaked in the clubhouses and the
dugouts in one sickening scene after another.

Still, the A's emerged as the team to watch this October in the
Bay Area while the San Francisco Giants - winners of two of the
last three World Series titles - sank out of the postseason
picture.

Oakland has won four straight and 13 of 16 to move a season-high
30 games over .500.

"I don't know how anybody could be surprised this year,"
outfielder Brandon Moss said.

The A's, who lost in five games to the eventual AL champion
Detroit Tigers in the division series last season, are still
trying to get home-field advantage. AL East champion Boston
(95-62) currently holds the top spot and AL Central-leading
Detroit (91-65) is trying to overtake Oakland (93-63) with six
games left.

"Last year, it was euphoria at the end," Melvin said. "We were
happy to be there. Didn't mean that we didn't go into the
Detroit series with some tenacity and expectations to win. But
this is just a whole different feel this year. We really did
expected to be here as a team."

Melvin had refused to talk about anything related to the
playoffs until his team sealed a spot. Even after guiding
Oakland to consecutive division crowns in his first two full
seasons, he deflected the attention to his players and let
general manager Billy Beane bask in his "Moneyball" fame again.

"It's been a relatively smooth year," Beane said. "We haven't
had a lot of crises, which means you don't have to see me a lot,
which is perfect."

After tearing down the plastic sheets and putting away the
bubbly in the clubhouse when the Rangers won Saturday night, the
A's left nothing to chance.

In the second, Cole De Vries (0-1) walked three straight batters
with two outs before Oakland's outburst. Eric Sogard blooped a
two-run single, Crisp hit his 22nd home run and Donaldson
doubled to put the Athletics ahead 6-1 and whip the
green-and-gold clad crowd into a frenzy.

With the Twins batting in the third, word started to circulate
around the Coliseum of Justin Maxwell's two-out grand slam that
beat the Rangers in the 10th inning to seal the division title
for the A's. Some players, noticing the high-fives and hollers
in the stands, kept glancing at the manual scoreboard in left
field.

The excitement subsided briefly when Arcia hit a three-run homer
in the third to slice Oakland's lead to 6-4.

Then Maxwell's slam was shown on the video board between
innings, setting off chants of "Let's go, Oakland!" from the
announced crowd of 30,589. Players shared subtle hugs in the
dugout, saving the celebration till the end.

NOTES: Only the Yankees (51) and Dodgers (27) have more
postseason appearances than the A's. ... Crisp joined the 20-20
club for the first time when he stole his 20th base in the sixth
inning. ... RHP Mike Pelfrey (5-13, 5.34) starts for the Twins
in their series opener with the Detroit Tigers on Monday night,
while A.J. Griffin (14-9, 3.78 ERA) goes for the A's in their
opener at the Los Angeles Angels.

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