Rangers rule AL West again - NBC Sports

Rangers rule AL West again
Texas takes care of business, secures second straight division title when Angels fall later
AP
Texas Rangers players celebrate in the clubhouse after a loss by the Los Angeles Angels enabled them to clinch the AL West title on Friday night.
September 24, 2011, 1:09 am

The Texas Rangers are AL West champions again.

Josh Hamilton and Adrian Beltre hit long home runs and Craig Gentry had an inside-the-park homer in a 5-3 victory over Seattle on Friday night. About two hours later, the Rangers had their second consecutive division title after the Los Angeles Angels lost to Oakland.

The regular Friday night fireworks show went on as usual after the Rangers (91-66) finished their game.

Fans were then invited to stick around and watch the Angels on the stadium's large video screen. Several thousand stayed and many of the Rangers players sat on the field with their families.

When the Athletics' 3-1 victory was done, eliminating Los Angeles from the West race, the Rangers celebrated on their own field more than 1,400 miles away by spraying ginger ale on each other and some of the fans. That was reminiscent of last year, when they did that in deference to Hamilton's well-documented substance abuse problems.

Rangers fans clapped and cheered on each of the Angels' outs in the bottom of the ninth. Many of the players disappeared into the dugout when the second out was made, then charged out after the final out wearing AL West championship T-shirts while fireworks filled the sky again - this time in celebration.

It is the fifth division title for Texas, which last year went to its first World Series.

"It's great. Now we have the opportunity to win a World Series," said Michael Young, the team's longest-tenured player in his 11th season. "It's been incredible so far. We're looking forward to the next step."

When David DeJesus hit a solo homer for Oakland in the top of the ninth inning, fans at Rangers Ballpark erupted in cheers. Texas shortstop Elvis Andrus then took a home run trot and slid into home surrounded by many of his teammates.

Before retreating to the clubhouse for a more traditional celebration, Texas players ran in a group down the left-field corner and then walked along the edge of the seating area sharing the moment with fans. Last year, the Rangers were in Oakland when they clinched the division title.

"This kind of stuff never gets old," said a goggles-wearing Young in the middle of the champagne-spraying celebration. "It's a group of guys who worked so hard all season long for an opportunity to get to the postseason. We have five games left. We know we're in. It's been an incredible journey so far."

Division championship T-shirts and caps were already available for fans to buy before leaving Rangers Ballpark.

"We was committed to each other," manager Ron Washington said. "We knew we had, we knew what we had to do because we've been through it before. Now we're back (in the playoffs) and we get another opportunity."

Matt Harrison (14-9) worked six innings for the Rangers.

Gentry hit a liner to left-center in the fourth that went to the wall after splitting the gap between two outfielders. Left fielder Mike Carp and center fielder Trayvon Robinson both made diving attempts to catch the ball, Robinson a few feet behind Carp.

They barely made it back to the bench in time.

The speedy Gentry initially wasn't even running full speed, and made a stutter-step rounding first base before realizing the ball was rolling to the wall. He then took off and scored standing for his first career homer (in 176 at-bats over 93 games).

It was the first inside-the-park homer for the Rangers since Nelson Cruz at Oakland on Sept. 4, 2006. Cruz was on base when Gentry got his. Washington even was able to retrieve the ball for Gentry.

That made it 5-0 and chased rookie left-hander Anthony Vasquez (1-5), who gave up three homers and seven hits over 3 1-3 innings.

"I had to keep the ball down. They were ready to hit fastballs. It was up and I was behind. They can take advantage of that," Vasquez said. "It's all about relaxing and getting confidence going, trusting what got you here."

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After Young led off the second with a single, his 206th hit of the season, Beltre followed with a towering 409-foot homer to left, his 29th of the season. That also gave him 100 RBIs, his third career 100-RBI season, and nine homers in 12 games.

An inning later, Hamilton went deep for the sixth time in 10 games. His 25th homer was a 433-foot solo blast over the Rangers bullpen in right-center.

Harrison retired 15 of the first 16 batters he faced until four consecutive Mariners reached to start the sixth. Ichiro Suzuki had an RBI single before Robinson walked to load the bases. Dustin Ackley and Miguel Olivo followed with consecutive sacrifice flies.

Harrison allowed three runs over six innings, giving up three singles and walking two. The left-hander is 4-0 in September, and 6-1 in 13 career games against Seattle.

Neftali Feliz, the fourth Texas reliever, worked the ninth for his 30th save in 36 chances.

For rookie Vasquez, this was his first start in his home state. But just like his previous start against the Rangers in Seattle, the left-hander from San Antonio allowed three homers, seven hits and five runs - though he got one more out than he did last Saturday.

Murphy caught Kyle Seager's popup in foul territory leading off the third even as a fan in the front row wearing a Rangers T-shirt and cap reached out to try to get a souvenir. The ball went over the fan's glove and was caught by the left fielder before their arms made contact.

When the replay was shown on the large videoboard, several fans jeered the man. But after Murphy caught the third out of the fourth, he ran by and handed that ball to the same fan.

"I didn't say anything to him. It kind of caught me off-guard when I went to catch the ball and he was right there," Murphy said. "I forgave him."

Notes: Texas is 13-4 against Seattle this season. ... Hamilton has homered in four consecutive home games. ... Mariners ace Felix Hernandez (14-13, 3.32 ERA) makes his last scheduled start of the season Saturday. His is fourth among AL starters with 220 strikeouts and 230 1-3 innings a season after winning the AL Cy Young Award with a 13-12 record. ... Alexi Ogando (13-8, 3.58), given extra rest down the stretch by the Rangers, makes only his third start of September.

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