A's Clinch AL West for 1st Time Since 2013 with Astros' Loss to Mariners

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistSeptember 22, 2020

Oakland Athletics' Tony Kemp, Mark Canha, Ramon Laureano, Marcus Semien and Robbie Grossman, from left, greet each other at the end of a baseball game against the San Francisco Giants on Friday, Sept. 18, 2020, in Oakland, Calif. Oakland won 6-0. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
Eric Risberg/Associated Press

The Oakland Athletics are the American League West champions for the first time since the 2013 campaign.

Oakland did not play Monday but still clinched its division crown thanks to the Seattle Mariners' 6-1 victory over the Houston Astros. Houston won the AL West in each of the last three years and reached two World Series during that span, winning one.

While it was fair to view the Astros as favorites coming into the season given their recent run of success, they were also under the microscope given their cheating scandal that dominated baseball headlines last offseason.

It's not as if the Athletics came out of nowhere, either, as they went 97-65 in 2018 and 2019 while reaching the playoffs as a wild-card team. However, they lost the American League Wild Card both times and have not won a playoff series since the 2006 campaign.

The next step would be winning in the postseason, and the Athletics have the personnel in place to perhaps do just that.

Matt Olson is seventh in the American League in both home runs (14) and RBI (42), while players such as Ramon Laureano, Mark Canha, Tommy La Stella and Marcus Semien provide important lineup depth and can come through in pressure-packed situations.

Mike Fiers, Chris Bassitt and Jesus Luzardo will be a difficult trio of pitchers for opposing teams to deal with in the playoffs, and Liam Hendriks has been excellent as the anchor of the bullpen and someone who can shorten games in the upcoming series.

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The Athletics also have time to potentially set their rotation since they clinched with more than a week remaining in the regular season, although they are competing with the Tampa Bay Rays and Chicago White Sox for seeding atop the American League.