Rangers get help to win 2nd straight AL West title

Elvis Andrus took off on a home run trot and Texas Rangers fans

cheered as he mimicked what was going on in a game 1,400 miles

away.

A few minutes later, the fireworks lit up the Texas sky as the

Rangers wore fresh AL West championship T-shirts and celebrated

their second consecutive division title with several thousand fans

who stayed to wait and watch with them.

Texas trimmed its magic number to one with a 5-3 victory over

the Seattle Mariners when Josh Hamilton and Adrian Beltre hit long

home runs before Craig Gentry had an inside-the-park homer. The

Rangers still needed a loss by the chasing Los Angeles Angels to

clinch the division, which came about two hours later.

Los Angeles was already down 1-0 going into the fourth inning at

home against Oakland when Texas (91-66) ended its game.

When David DeJesus hit a solo homer for Oakland in the top of

the ninth for a 3-1 lead, what would be the final score, fans in

Texas watching the huge video screen erupted. Andrus took off on

his trot and then slid into home plate surrounded by his

teammates.

”Elvis called it before it even happened. That was pretty

funny,” Michael Young said. ”That’s our moment. We were in our

ballpark. … Usually you kind of have a point where you can

dogpile on your field, celebrate, come up here (in the clubhouse)

and have a party. We weren’t sure how this was going to work out,

but you have 10,000 people in your home park sticking around, it

made it pretty sweet. We wouldn’t have written it up any other

way.”

It is the fifth division title for the Rangers, who last year

went to their first World Series.

The Rangers were in Oakland last season when they clinched their

first AL West crown since 1999. They had never won a playoff series

before beating Tampa Bay in the AL divisional series and the New

York Yankees in the AL championship series last October. San

Francisco won the World Series in five games.

”At the end of the World Series last year after the Giants beat

us, we stood in this room and we committed ourselves to get back

here and get another opportunity,” manager Ron Washington said in

the middle of the clubhouse celebration. ”Tonight is what we did,

we gave ourselves another opportunity.”

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 came back after the final

out wearing new T-shirts and sprayed 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.

Division championship T-shirts and caps were immediately

available for fans to buy, too. The team kept the doors open until

2 a.m. at three of its gift shops – at Rangers Ballpark and stores

in downtown Dallas and Fort Worth.

”It’s great. Now we have the opportunity to win a World

Series,” said 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.”

A banner declaring their 2011 division championship was unfurled

high above center field soon after the Angels lost.

Texas still has five games left in the regular season, including

three next week in Los Angeles for the final series.

The playoffs are set to begin next Friday. The Rangers are tied

with AL Central champ Detroit for the second-best record, but would

have to finish a game ahead of the Tigers to get home-field

advantage in the playoffs and avoid a likely divisional series

opener at New York against the Yankees.

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

Seattle.

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.

Gentry hit a liner to left-center in the fourth that rolled 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.

”We did exactly what we were supposed to do, which is attack

the ball. We both felt we could get it,” Robinson said. ”Thank

God we didn’t collide with each other or we probably wouldn’t be

talking right now.”

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 got the ball for Gentry to have as

a keepsake.

That made it 5-0 and chased rookie left-hander Anthony Vasquez

(1-5), the Texas native who gave up three homers and seven hits

over 3 1-3 innings.

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. 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 for a 3-0 lead.

”The one Beltre hit got us on the board first and Hamilton gave

us some room,” Washington said. ”Then Gentry hit one in the

perfect spot, split the outfielders and did the rest with his legs.

All of them were impressive.”