OAKLAND, California — The Oakland A's stopped the string of back to back American League titles Wednesday, beating Texas 12-5. The Rangers never got close down the stretch in a game that turned in the fourth inning after Texas had amassed a 5-1 lead.
The Rangers' 2012 season will be decided Friday night at 7:37 p.m. in Arlington when the Baltimore Orioles come to town for a one-game Wild Card playoff.
"Well, it was very disappointing because that's what we were playing for," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "We still have an opportunity. We're still in the playoffs."
That fourth inning began for the A's with a walk followed by three straight hits to cut the lead to two. Ryan Dempster, who the Rangers hoped would help secure the AL West title when he was acquired at the trade deadline, exited the fourth with a 5-3 lead.
Derek Holland took over with the bases loaded with no outs, but he couldn't stop the A's momentum.
Coco Crisp followed with one of the game's biggest hits, a double to deep right field that tied the game at five.
A costly mistake in center field then handed all the momentum to the A's.
With two outs, Yoenis Cespedes hit a fly ball to center field that Josh Hamilton appeared to lose in the sun. Two of the A's six runs in the inning scored on the error as the A's lead 7-to-5. It turns out, the sun wasn’t an issue.
"He just missed it," manager Ron Washington said. "The sun didn't have anything to do with it. He just missed it. You wish it wouldn't happen but it did."
After the A's offensive explosion, the Rangers' bats went quiet, putting up just two hits and a walk the rest of the game. Down 8-5 in the seventh, Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz got into scoring position with back-to-back, no-out hits but the Rangers stranded both after a ground out and two strikeouts from Oakland reliever Ryan Cook.
So after 161 games and leading the division for most of the season, the Rangers had to settle for a wild card spot.
"We caught them when they were very hot," Washington said. "It didn't matter what we did. They were able to overcome everything, so our hats off to them."
The A's needed a sweep and they delivered to win their first division crown since 2006 and 15th in all. They overcame a five-game deficit in the final nine days. Wednesday was their first day this year in sole possession of the West's top spot.
"Nobody over there feels sorry for us," Dempster said. "Nobody in this league feels sorry for us. We just have to execute. That's all we've got to do."
The mistakes continued to pile up in the bottom of the eighth, as second baseman Ian Kinsler made another error to add to his team-leading 17. The Kinsler error then led to a two-out, three-run single to put Oakland on top 12-5. It was one of three Rangers error in the game.
"They just kept pushing runs across," 3rd baseman Michael Young said. "They scored 12 so it was their day offensively. They're playing extremely well. They're playing with a lot of confidence." Holland took the loss to finish 12-7 on the year. Evan Scribner won, to finish 2-0.
Going into the final game of the year, A's rookie pitchers had combined for 53 wins, a major-league record for most wins by rookies in a season.
Oakland, a team that won 74 games last year, improved by 20 games this year to finish the season at 94-68. Texas finished 93-67.
Texas now is headed to a one-game, wild card playoff on the heels of being swept in a three-game series for just the second time this season. They have lost seven of their last nine games.
The silver lining: One year ago, the St Louis Cardinals, a wild card team, won the World Series. Now Texas hopes to fall back on their playoff experience.
"The momentum shifts from pitch to pitch, especially when you get into the playoffs," Young says. "It shifts all the time, pitch to pitch, play to play, hit to hit. We’ll be ready to go. We’re looking forward to Friday."