A’s win AL West, Yanks & O’s to settle AL East
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 in the new, expanded format.
The low-budget A’s clinched their unlikely title, trumping Texas 12-5 by taking advantage of Hamilton’s error. Trailing by 13 games a week before the All-Star break, the A’s overcame a four-run deficit Wednesday to relegate the Rangers to a wild-card spot.
“It shows how important Game 162 is,” Oakland designated hitter Jonny Gomes said. “I don’t think it took 162 games to check the character of this ballclub.”
The Yankees claimed the AL East a few hours later. 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.
A year after a thrilling, last-day scramble for playoff spots, all 10 slots had already been filled going into the afternoon. Soon enough, the pairings were set, too.
Also a done deal: Cabrera won the majors’ first Triple Crown since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.
The Yankees hold home-field advantage throughout the AL playoffs, and will open Sunday at either Baltimore or Texas.
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.