Regular season ends with loss for Rangers; Rays on tap

Josh Hamilton

Credit: AP Photo / Tony Gutierrez

Josh Hamilton follows through on his single in the fourth inning of Sunday's final game of the regular season.

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by STEPHEN HAWKINS

Associated Press

Posted on October 3, 2010 at 6:05 PM

Updated Monday, Oct 4 at 5:20 PM

ARLINGTON (AP) — Josh Hamilton was crowned the batting champion, as was long expected, and the Texas Rangers found out they will finally play somebody other than the New York Yankees in a playoff game.

Hamilton finished the regular season with a .359 average after going 1-4 in the finale Sunday, when the AL West champion Rangers lost 6-2 to the Los Angeles Angels.

"Going to the playoffs means a lot more," said Hamilton, whose average was 23 points higher than NL hitting champion Carlos Gonzalez of Colorado.

Texas was still playing when New York lost in Boston, making the Rays the AL East champions. The Rangers play Game 1 of the ALDS in Tampa Bay on Wednesday, while the Yankees go to Minnesota for the other AL series.

"We're excited. The flight can't leave early enough," said Michael Young, the longest-tenured Ranger in his 10th season and going to the playoffs for the first time after 1,508 career games.

The Rangers (90-72), who clinched the division title Sept. 25, are in the playoffs for the first time since 1999. In their three previous postseason appearances, they lost to New York in the first round each time. Their only victory came in Game 1 of the 1996 ALDS before they were swept in 1998 and 1999.

Rookie Peter Bourjos hit a tiebreaking homer in the sixth inning for the Angels (80-82), who still had their first losing record since 2003 after winning the division five of the previous six seasons.

Dan Haren, acquired July 25 by the Angels from Arizona in hopes of bolstering their playoff chances, allowed two runs over six innings with three strikeouts. The right-hander went 5-4 for Los Angeles, including 4-0 with a 1.70 ERA his last eight starts, and was 12-12 overall with a career-high 235 innings pitched.

"It was a weird year for me. I came here with a fresh start. Obviously we would have liked to finish better," Haren said. "But I threw the ball well and showed the club what I was capable of."

After missing 24 games because of two broken ribs, Hamilton went 3 for 11 with a homer, a sacrifice fly and three RBIs in the last three games of the regular season. He finished with 32 homers and 100 RBIs.

"It was a good test," Hamilton said. "I jumped back in there a lot quicker than I probably would have normally. But it's that time of the year. It's a good time of the year knowing you're going to keep playing into October. ... You might feel a little better just for the excitement and the adrenaline that's going to be flowing by time we get into the first round."

Hamilton returned to the lineup in center field on Friday night, then was the designated hitter Saturday night before playing the finale in left field.

"It was good for his confidence that he felt like he could go up there and swing the bat and have no problems. It was good that he could get out there and run after flyballs," Washington said. "And it's good for the team. We're a different team with Josh Hamilton in the lineup."

The only other Texas player to lead the majors in hitting was Julio Franco in 1991, when he hit .341, the team record for a season until now. Young won the AL batting title with a .331 average in 2005.

Bengie Molina and Julio Borbon, the Nos. 8-9 hitters in the Texas lineup, had consecutive RBI singles in the fifth to tie the game at 2.

Dustin Nippert replaced Rangers starter Colby Lewis to start the sixth and the first batter he faced was Bourjos, who hit the second pitch into the left-field seats for his sixth home run. Bourjos started 50 of the last 51 games after being called up Aug. 3.

The only hit Lewis allowed in his five innings was a two-run homer by Hideki Matsui, his 21st.

Lewis, the right-hander scheduled to start Game 3 of the ALDS when the Rangers play at home Saturday, struck out four. His 201 innings are the most in any of his 12 professional seasons for Lewis, a 1999 draft pick by the Rangers who spent the last two years in Japan before coming back to his original team.

Alberto Callapso, like Haren a midseason acquisition for the Angels, had an RBI single in the ninth after an 11-for-85 skid. Mark Trumbo, who had been 0 for 14 with eight strikeouts to start his major league career, added a two-run single.

Notes: The announced crowd of 45,446 pushed the season attendance at Rangers Ballpark to 2,505,171, the highest since 2005. ... Los Angeles finished 35-22 vs. AL West foes, but 45-60 against everyone else. ... Torii Hunter, voted the Angels' team MVP, hit a team-leading .281. The last time the Angels finished without a regular player above .300 was 2001. ... After Nippert had completed his warmup pitches, manager Ron Washington came out of the dugout and made several defensive changes. He brought Young, Nelson Cruz, Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus out one-by-one so they could each be recognized.

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