Wednesday, October 3, 2012
AL West title slips from Rangers' grasp
By Richard Durrett
OAKLAND, Calif. --The Texas Rangers are not AL West champions for a third consecutive year.The Oakland A's completed an improbable comeback, sweeping Texas in the final three games of the season to claim the title that appeared reserved for the Rangers for most of the season. It means Oakland celebrates a division title while the Rangers will play either Baltimore or New York in the AL wild-card game.
The Rangers led the AL West by four games on Friday morning, but lost five of six games while the A's won six straight to grab the title. Texas needed just one game during a three-game series and couldn't win it. They had a 5-1 lead going into the bottom of the fourth Wednesday and watched as the A's scored six runs in the fourth to take a lead that they never relinquished in winning, 12-5.
But the biggest play of the game was one that Josh Hamilton didn't make. With the score tied at five in the fourth inning, Yoenis Cespedes hit a routine fly ball to center field. Hamilton came in and appeared nonchalant about it, putting his glove up to make the play. But he overran it and the ball nicked off his glove and went behind him. That allowed two runs to score, putting the A's up 7-5. Manager Ron Washington had a lively conversation with Hamilton in the dugout between innings, as the television broadcasts showed.
The A's never looked back and secured the win. Oakland was 13 games back of the Rangers in June and managed to come all the way back. That's one game shy of the largest deficit overcome during as a season to win the division since 1969. The New York Yankees came back from a 14-game deficit in 1978.
The Rangers led the AL West by themselves since April 9 and had the lead for 178 days. That's the most days in baseball history without winning the division, according to Elias Sports Bureau. The Tigers led for 165 days in 2009.
The Rangers' late-season swoon means they are now forced to play in a one-game, winner-take-all wild-card game Friday. They'll send Yu Darvish to the mound, hoping he can send them into the ALDS.