It took 162 games, but we finally have the AL West champion.
With a 12-5 win, the Oakland Athletics completed their epic late-season comeback with, well, an appropriate epic comeback.
After the A's struck first, thanks to a Brandon Moss double in the bottom half of the opening inning, the Rangers charged back with a five-run third that chased starter A.J. Griffin from the game.
Griffin, in his first major-league stint, had been nearly unhittable this season, but finally succumbed to the pressure of this play-in for the play-in game.
No worries, though, because it was the American League Ryan Dempster on the opposing mound.
Texas took its 5-1 lead into the bottom of the fourth, but after a barrage of singles and doubles, the Athletics tied the game up and pushed an ineffective—hello, understatement—Dempster from the game.
Then came "the play."
With two outs in that same inning, Yoenis Cespedes stepped to the plate with Coco Crisp and Stephen Drew in scoring position. He hit a routine fly ball to center fielder Josh Hamilton, who, well, didn't do a good job.
Hamilton dropped the routine fly ball, Crisp and Drew scored, and the A's finished the fourth with six runs and a 7-5 lead.
They never looked back.
Evan Scribner emerged with the huge win after three scoreless relief innings, while Derek Holland was saddled with the loss. There were a total of 22 hits in this slugfest; Brandon Moss drove in three and Derek Norris added the only home run in the eighth inning to seal the victory.
Wednesday's game was just a microcosm of Oakland's last three months.
On July 1, the A's were 12 games out of first place in the West. On Aug. 25, they were still six games out. On Sept. 24, following a loss to this same—kind of—Rangers team, they were five games out with just nine games to play.
But the A's won eight of those last nine games, including five against Texas, and the comeback, which finally provided Oakland with its only day alone as No. 1 in the West all season, was complete.
I'm not sure, but I think FanGraphs' Dave Cameron was typing in the sarcastic font when he tweeted this shortly after Josh Hamilton dropped a can o' corn, which resulted in two go-ahead runs for the Athletics:
Obviously, those who value defense are just stupid.It never matters.— David Cameron (@DCameronFG) October 3, 2012
ESPN Stats and Info points out that maybe we shouldn't be so surprised that Hamilton made such an egregious mistake:
1 of 2: Josh Hamilton made a huge error for the #Rangers in CF, he's got 4th-fewest Defensive Runs Saved in CF this season.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 3, 2012
The Bay Area News Group's Joe Stiglich gives us an idea of the emotion Oakland was playing with as it secured its first AL West title since 2006:
The intensity is contagious among #Athletics relievers. Doolittle comes off mound yelling after K'ing Hamilton. Oak 3 outs from div title.— Joe Stiglich (@joestiglich) October 3, 2012
And as for the Rangers, well, go ahead and imagine the complete opposite of intensity (via ESPN's John Buccigross):
The lethargy of the Rangers is startling. They're going to get swept by the A's. They are playing with spring training intensity. #weaksauce— John Buccigross (@Buccigross) October 3, 2012
Baseball America's Ben Badler is spot on with his prediction:
Changing my AL West pre-season prediction to Oakland.— Ben Badler (@BenBadler) October 3, 2012
Believe it or not, the playoff race still isn't completely settled.
We do know that the Texas Rangers are headed to the Wild Card play-in game for a a chance to meet the AL No. 1 seed, but that's about it.
If the Yankees lose, however, the A's grab the No. 1 seed and the Rangers would face either A) the Orioles if Baltimore also loses or B) the loser of the AL East one-game playoff, which would occur if Baltimore wins tonight.
Confused? Me too.
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