Baseball roundup

Oakland, including Jemile Weeks (19), celebrates after clinching an American League wild card berth in Monday's home game against Texas.
Oakland, including Jemile Weeks (19), celebrates after clinching an American League wild card berth in Monday's home game against Texas.

A's back in AL playoffs for first time in six years

This time, it was manager Bob Melvin who took a whipped cream pie in the face.

All those walk-off wins from guys hardly known beyond the Bay Area until now, all those moving parts and the long list of injury reports day after day, Melvin has had as big a hand in Oakland's return to the playoffs as anybody - and his players will swear by it.

So, fittingly, it was his turn to be celebrated.

Josh Reddick planted the pie in the skipper's face moments after a 4-3 win over the Texas Rangers on Monday night.

The upstart, scrappy, no-fear A's are now the playoff-bound A's.

They still hope to be AL West champions, too. Two more wins against the two-time reigning AL champion Rangers would do it.

Coco Crisp's latest big hit helped put the A's in the playoffs for the first time in six years, and they remained in contention for a division crown.

"We want to come out here and compete way above our means," Crisp said of the low-budget franchise. "We're going to enjoy it right now."

Crisp had a go-ahead double in the fifth inning as the A's (92-68) pulled within one game of Texas (93-67) in the AL West with two to go and moved into a tie with Baltimore for the American League's top wild card.

Oakland's victory also eliminated the Los Angeles Angels and Tampa Bay Rays from playoff contention.

This youthful bunch of A's partied like they'd never done this before - and that's because most of them haven't.

Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes - hat on backward, goggles on, bottle in hand - danced in the middle of the clubhouse as others quickly joined the fun.

"It's getting beyond believable at this point," said opening day starter Brandon McCarthy, sidelined after getting hit in the head by a line drive Sept. 5 and undergoing surgery. "There's no reason we should be here at this point. Every single person keeps coming in and stepping up and filling in."

Pinch-hitter Brandon Moss delivered a sacrifice fly for insurance and Josh Reddick added an RBI single for the resurgent A's, who must sweep this season-ending series against the two-time reigning AL champions to capture the West title.

"Absolutely amazing," Melvin said. "We don't get this done unless everybody believes in everybody and everybody plays selflessly."

Michael Young and Mike Napoli each homered against Jarrod Parker, who was otherwise solid in beating the Rangers for the third time in as many career chances - all this year.

Crisp followed the double by stealing his 39th base, then scored on Moss' fly ball to shallow center. Center fielder Josh Hamilton hesitated ever so slightly before making the throw home, just enough for Crisp to slide in safely.

The reliable leadoff man returned Friday after missing nine starts with an infection in both eyes. Crisp is batting .529 (9 for 17) with seven runs, three doubles, three stolen bases and two RBIs in four games since coming back.

"They play with no conscious. They're not afraid of nobody right now," said Rangers manager Ron Washington, Oakland's longtime third-base coach before leaving to manage Texas. "I'm never surprised what happens over in that clubhouse with the Oakland A's. They've always got pitching, and when you've got pitching, you never know what can happen."

Tigers clinch AL Central title with late surge

There could have been some infighting when the Detroit Tigers were languishing below .500 midway through the season, or even when they trailed the Chicago White Sox deep into September.

This was the team, after all, that won the AL Central last year, and was only supposed to get better with the signing of Prince Fielder. But the lofty expectations out of spring training had been long forgotten by everyone outside the clubhouse, the season so often close to being written off.

Then the White Sox started to falter, the Tigers finally started to play defense, and all the pieces came together for a joyous ride that ended in a raucous celebration Monday night.

The Tigers, paced by MVP front-runner Miguel Cabrera, beat the Kansas City Royals 6-3 to clinch back-to-back division titles for the first time since the 1934-35 seasons.

"It was a rocky road, it was a tough season, but in this business, you have to be able to take some hits," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. "This isn't a place for the faint-hearted, hell, we took a lot of punches, a lot of them justified, some of them maybe not, but hey, we can take a punch."

They're just as likely to come out swinging, too.

Cabrera had four hits on the night, including a homer during a decisive five-run sixth inning, to prop up his chances of becoming the first Triple Crown winner since 1967.

Gerald Laird added a bases-loaded double, Rick Porcello (10-12) pitched shutout ball into the sixth inning and Jhonny Peralta went deep off Bruce Chen (11-14) to give the Tigers a big lead.

After hanging over the dugout railing the entire ninth inning, they streamed onto the field behind the pitchers' mound to celebrate their division title the moment Jose Valverde got Alcides Escobar to ground out to shortstop with a runner on second for his 35th save in 40 chances.

"We always knew it wasn't going to be easy, and the guys handled it great," Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski said.

"This is the first step. We want to go a couple more, too."

The Tigers were even mindful of their victory celebration, choosing Fre Brut - an alcohol-removed sparkling wine - in deference to Cabrera, who's had alcohol abuse problems.

"It feels really good," Fielder said. "I mean, it wasn't easy, but we got it done."

The Tigers (87-73) will have the worst record among AL division champions, which means they'll open the playoffs Saturday at home against the division winner with the second-best mark.

Not that when and where matters much to Leyland's bunch.

They're just glad to be back in the playoffs.

"You've got to take your hat off to them. They're the champs," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "They've got the starting pitching, the power, a great bullpen. They've got a chance to go deep."


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