A's, Yanks claim titles; playoffs set

BEN WALKER AP Baseball Writer Published:

Coco Crisp settled under the final fly ball, and the Oakland Athletics started charging onto the field like a bunch of Little Leaguers chasing an ice cream truck after a big win.

Within seconds, the infield at the Coliseum was a sea of green and gold. These young A's had done it, sweeping Texas to win a most improbable AL West title on the last day of the regular season.

A few hours later, baseball's playoff pairings were set. All of that fretting over potential tiebreakers, cross-country trips and a chaotic postseason schedule was for naught.

"Now the real season starts," New York Yankees star Derek Jeter said Wednesday night.

The playoffs begin Friday with a pair of winner-take-all wild-card matchups. The defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals visit Chipper Jones and the Atlanta Braves in the NL, then Baltimore plays at Texas.

Plus, consider this: After so much talk about the new, expanded postseason format that added two teams, the AL came out exactly how it would've last year. The Rangers and Orioles finished with the same record, so they're playing one game to decide it.

The Athletics' 12-5 win, helped when All-Star center fielder Josh Hamilton dropped a fly, brought them a curious reward: a trip to Detroit to face Triple Crown slugger Miguel Cabrera, reigning AL MVP and Cy Young winner Justin Verlander and the Tigers in Game 1 of the division series.

"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," Oakland manager Bob Melvin said.

No matter, it was time for celebrating. The A's took a victory lap around their ballpark, slapping hands with their fans and spraying them with bubbly.

The Yankees later claimed the AL East championship. They began celebrating in the dugout during the seventh inning when the scoreboard showed second-place Baltimore had lost 4-1 to Tampa Bay, thanks to three home runs by Evan Longoria.

Jeter, a five-time World Series champion, and the Yankees put an emphatic end on their finish, routing rival Boston 14-2.

The Yankees hold home-field advantage throughout the AL playoffs, and will open Sunday at either Baltimore or Texas in a best-of-five series. In a one-year arrangement made necessary by the new wild-card format, the division series begin with two games at the lower-seeded team.

On Saturday night, Johnny Cueto starts for Cincinnati against Matt Cain and host San Francisco in Game 1 of the NL division series.

Ryan Zimmerman and the Washington Nationals got sized for hats with postseason patches, then beat Philadelphia 5-1 to earn home-field advantage all the way through November, if necessary.

There was another winner at Nationals Park, too. The Teddy Roosevelt mascot took the in-game Presidents Race for the first time. Ol' Teddy had lost more than 500 dashes to the 10-foot foam representations of Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington.

"I am so glad Teddy won, so we can stop talking about Teddy. People get more excited for a mascot race than a game," Zimmerman said.

Washington and well-rested 21-game winner Gio Gonzalez will play Sunday at the NL wild-card winner.

Nationals manager Davey Johnson is expected to be all right for the opener. He left the dugout in the seventh inning Wednesday because of numbness in his left leg, the result of pinched nerves in his back.

"I'm OK. Nothing wrong with me," he said.

Atlanta's Kris Medlen will throw the first pitch of this year's playoffs. The Braves have won a record 23 straight games when he's started. Kyle Lohse starts for St. Louis.

For Jones, it could be his last appearance in the majors. The Braves star is retiring at age 40.

"Now we've got to get over this one-game playoff thing to give ourselves a legitimate shot at what we were all shooting for out of spring training," he said.

ATHLETICS 12, RANGERS 5

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Oakland won the AL West 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 two-time defending league champion Texas on Wednesday.

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.

While Hamilton's Rangers (93-69) are headed to the new one-game, wild-card playoff, the A's get some time off before opening the division series in their first postseason appearance since 2006.

The A's needed a sweep Texas 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.

Oakland's Coco Crisp hit a tying two-run double in the fourth against Derek Holland (12-7). Brandon Moss drove in three runs, including a two-run single in a four-run eighth.

Rookie Evan Scribner (2-0) allowed two hits and struck out two in three scoreless innings after replacing struggling starter A.J. Griffin.

Derek Norris homered leading off the eighth with his seventh homer and Oakland's major league-leading 112th since the All-Star break.

YANKEES 14, RED SOX 2

NEW YORK -- Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson each hit a pair of homers, powering the Yankees past the Red Sox for their 13th AL East title in 17 years.

In front of fans poised to party from the first pitch, the Yankees completed a three-game sweep of the last-place Red Sox to win their second consecutive division crown. The championship was locked up by the seventh inning, when Baltimore's 4-1 loss at Tampa bay went final.

Cano tied a career high with six RBIs as New York secured home-field advantage throughout the AL playoffs. The Yankees will open on the road Sunday against the winner of Friday's wild-card game between Baltimore and Texas.

RAYS 4, ORIOLES 1

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Evan Longoria homered three times and the Rays beat Baltimore, ending the Orioles' bid to force a one-game tiebreaker for the AL East title.

WHITE SOX 9, INDIANS 0

CLEVELAND -- Dan Johnson hit his first three homers of the season and Chicago added two more in the game as the White Sox routed the Indians.

BLUE JAYS 2, TWINS 1

TORONTO -- Brandon Morrow struck out a season-high 11, Omar Vizquel wrapped up his 24-year career and the Blue Jays beat the Twins to complete a three-game sweep.

MARINERS 12, ANGELS 0

SEATTLE -- Casper Wells tied a career-high with five RBIs including a three-run homer in Seattle's six-run seventh inning, and the Mariners routed the Angels.

NATIONALS 5, PHILLIES 1

WASHINGTON -- NL East champion Washington secured home-field advantage throughout the postseason by beating Philadelphia 5-1 on Wednesday for their major league-high 98th victory.

BRAVES 4, PIRATES 0

PITTSBURGH -- Jason Heyward singled twice and scored two runs for Atlanta in the regular-season finale.

CUBS 5, ASTROS 4

CHICAGO -- Houston ended its National League tenure with a result that's become familiar: a loss.

METS 4, MARLINS 2

MIAMI -- Ike Davis hit his 32nd homer and Scott Hairston got his 20th to help New York win its season finale.

ROCKIES 2, DIAMONDBACKS 1

PHOENIX -- Jeff Francis earned his first victory in more than a month and Colorado used two unearned runs to beat Ian Kennedy to conclude disappointing seasons for both teams.

DODGERS 5, GIANTS 1

LOS ANGELES -- Clayton Kershaw finished with a major league-leading 2.53 ERA, Adrian Gonzalez singled in the go-ahead run in the sixth inning, and Los Angeles ended its season a day after being eliminated from playoff contention for the third straight year by San Francisco.

PADRES 7, BREWERS 6

MILWAUKEE -- Chase Headley drove in two runs, finishing the season with an NL-leading 115 RBIs for San Diego.

CARDINALS 1, REDS 0

ST. LOUIS -- Rookie right-hander Shelby Miller took a no-hitter into the sixth inning in his first career start and Matt Carpenter had a run-scoring single for St. Louis.

Miller gave up a two-out bloop single to Wilson Valdez in the sixth to end his no-hit bid. He struck out seven, walked two and allowed just one hit over six innings.

Reds starter Homer Bailey, who threw a no-hitter at Pittsburgh in his previous start, tossed four shutout innings, allowing four hits. He struck out six and did not walk a batter.

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