A's dethrone Astros, clinch first AL West title since 2013

Oakland A's
USA Today

It took longer than they had hoped, but the A’s officially clinched their first AL West title since 2013 when the Houston Astros lost to the Seattle Mariners at T-Mobile Park on Monday night. 

The A’s (33-20) will head to the playoffs with a different, yet familiar feel.

The expanded playoff format should benefit the A's, who haven't been able to get past the single-elimination Wild Card game. This year, they will play in the best-of-three Wild Card round at the Oakland Coliseum.

If the A's are able to advance out of the Wild Card round, they will enter the American League playoff bubble in San Diego or Los Angeles. That's a scenario A’s shortstop Marcus Semien welcomes with open arms.

"MLB's doing what they have to do to keep us safe, and to keep it going," Semien said prior to Saturday's game against the Giants. "We don't want to have any outbreaks, and the bubble seems like the best way to do that."

It’ll be different, sure, and who knows how next season will look, but for now, the team views it as a positive.

"I don't know where it goes next year, but for what we have this year, I think it's cool just to expand it a little bit, and show the fans some more baseball,” Semien added.

MLB announced earlier this week that the best-of-three Wild Card round will be held in the home stadiums of the higher seeds. That will be followed by the best-of-five Division Series, best-of-seven League Championship Series and the best-of-seven World Series -- all of which will be held at neutral-site locations.

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For the A's, who finished in second-place in the AL West each of the last two seasons, winning the division isn't their primary goal. Winning a World Series is.

But it has to feel good for the A's to dethrone the Astros, who had a sign-stealing scandal uncovered over the offseason and became Public Enemy No. 1 throughout baseball.