Athletics sweep Twins, capture AL West again
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Wearing a gold robe and swim goggles, bearded right fielder Josh Reddick ran around the Oakland Athletics clubhouse guzzling beer as bubbly sprayed in every direction.
A.J. Griffin grabbed anybody he could to dance with in the middle of the room. Manager Bob Melvin stood in the hallway and stayed dry for a while, just smiling and soaking up the scene.
His T-shirt said it all: "We Own The West."
Coco Crisp hit a three-run homer, Daric Barton and Jed Lowrie each had a solo shot and the A's wrapped up their second straight AL West title while overpowering the Minnesota Twins 11-7 Sunday.
"The only bad part about this is our clubhouse is going to stink for about two weeks," Reddick said.
Oswaldo Arcia homered and drove in six runs for Minnesota. But the Twins were just the latest team the A's turned into a footnote during another scintillating September run.
The A's clinched their 16th division crown and 25th postseason appearance when Texas lost 4-0 at Kansas City during the game.
Sonny Gray (4-3) gave up four runs and seven hits in five innings for Oakland, calling it "one of the most nerve-racking starts I've ever had." The A's scored six runs in the second inning and one in each of the next five to set the stage for their own celebration.
Evan Scribner struck out Josmil Pinto swinging for the final out. The A's sprinted out of the dugout, jumping around in their gold uniforms to turn the infield into a blur.
For the A's, it was a far-less dramatic scene than a year ago, when they won the AL West on the final day of the regular season by beating Texas to complete a series sweep.
"I think last year we surprised a lot of people," third baseman Josh Donaldson said. "I think this year we're an all-around better team and we feel like we belong."
This year's postseason push -- sealed with a week to spare -- was less surprising but equally remarkable.
The A's had the fourth-lowest opening day payroll at about $65 million. They have a roster full of mostly anonymous and up-and-coming players. And their home is an old, dual-sport stadium where sewage has leaked in the clubhouses and the dugouts in one sickening scene after another.
Still, the A's emerged as the team to watch this October in the Bay Area while the San Francisco Giants -- winners of two of the last three World Series titles -- sank out of the postseason picture.
Oakland has won four straight and 13 of 16 to move a season-high 30 games over .500.
"I don't know how anybody could be surprised this year," outfielder Brandon Moss said.
The A's, who lost in five games to the eventual AL champion Detroit Tigers in the division series last season, are still trying to get home-field advantage. AL East champion Boston (95-62) currently holds the top spot and AL Central-leading Detroit (91-65) is trying to overtake Oakland (93-63) with six games left.
"Last year, it was euphoria at the end," Melvin said. "We were happy to be there. Didn't mean that we didn't go into the Detroit series with some tenacity and expectations to win. But this is just a whole different feel this year. We really did expected to be here as a team."
Melvin had refused to talk about anything related to the playoffs until his team sealed a spot. Even after guiding Oakland to consecutive division crowns in his first two full seasons, he deflected the attention to his players and let general manager Billy Beane bask in his "Moneyball" fame again.
"It's been a relatively smooth year," Beane said. "We haven't had a lot of crises, which means you don't have to see me a lot, which is perfect."
After tearing down the plastic sheets and putting away the bubbly in the clubhouse when the Rangers won Saturday night, the A's left nothing to chance.
In the second, Cole De Vries (0-1) walked three straight batters with two outs before Oakland's outburst. Eric Sogard blooped a two-run single, Crisp hit his 22nd home run and Donaldson doubled to put the Athletics ahead 6-1 and whip the green-and-gold clad crowd into a frenzy.
With the Twins batting in the third, word started to circulate around the Coliseum of Justin Maxwell's two-out grand slam that beat the Rangers in the 10th inning to seal the division title for the A's. Some players, noticing the high-fives and hollers in the stands, kept glancing at the manual scoreboard in left field.
The excitement subsided briefly when Arcia hit a three-run homer in the third to slice Oakland's lead to 6-4.
Then Maxwell's slam was shown on the video board between innings, setting off chants of "Let's go, Oakland!" from the announced crowd of 30,589. Players shared subtle hugs in the dugout, saving the celebration till the end.
Notes: Only the Yankees (51) and Dodgers (27) have more postseason appearances than the A's. . . . Crisp joined the 20-20 club for the first time when he stole his 20th base in the sixth inning. . . . RHP Mike Pelfrey (5-13, 5.34) starts for the Twins in their series opener with the Detroit Tigers on Monday night, while A.J. Griffin (14-9, 3.78 ERA) goes for the A's in their opener at the Los Angeles Angels.