The Texas Rangers came into yesterday’s game needing a win and an Angels’ loss to clinch the AL West. They were in dominant position in the division anyway, but I imagine it’s nice to get these things out of the way as early as possible. Things started out well against the Mariners, with home runs being hit by Adrian Beltre (his 29th), Josh Hamilton (his 25th) and Craig Gentry (the 1st of his career, and it was of the inside-the-park variety, no less). The M’s started to mount a comeback, putting up 3 runs against Matt Harrison before he was pulled. The Texas bullpen held though, with scoreless appearances by longer-time Rangers Darren Oliver and Neftali Feliz (to close it out), with new-comers Koji Uehara and Mike Adams bridging the gap between the two. With the W in the books, only an LA loss was needed.
The Angels had Jered Weaver on the mound, but the Oakland A’s countered with Gio Gonzalez, who ended up out-dueling the ace. Book-ending homers by David DeJesus (in the first) and Jemile Weeks (in the ninth) put the A’s up 3-1, and gave the AL West title to the Rangers.
The Milwaukee Brewers were in the same position as the Rangers coming into the day. Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun both homered for the team, with the latter’s being the game-winner in the 8th. Meanwhile, Yovani Gallardo mowed down the Marlins with 11 K’s in 7.1 IP. The Cardinals dropped their game to the Cubs in similar fashion, with Alfonso Soriano delivering a game-winning three-run homer in the top of the 8th to break a 1-1 tie.
Arizona held a little more direct control, playing the team directly behind them. Joe Saunders scattered 9 hits over 7 IP while striking out only one, but allowed just a solo home run to the Giants. Matt Cain couldn’t match him, and with the D’Back’s 3-1 win they were able to clinch the NL West.
And just like that, all of the division winners are set – the earliest time in the Wild Card era that all such races were determined. Texas are winners for the second year in a row – the first time since 1998-99 since that’s happened. On the other side, the Brewers take their first title since they did it in back-to-back years in ’81-82 (the only other years they’ve done it). The Diamondbacks division title is actually their 5th in only 14 years of existence.
Also last night: The Braves puts some runs on the board against Stephen Strasburg to cut their magic number in the Wild Card race to 3; Brandon Morrow shut down the Rays, as the Blue Jays knocked them back in the standings; 18 hits (4 of which were homers) for the Royals as they blow out the White Sox 11-1; and much more.
What to watch tonight: Jon Lester looks to extend Boston’s Wild Card lead, against Freddy Garcia and the Yankees; Jeff Niemann has a tough job hoping to keep Tampa Bay close, facing Rickey Romero and the Jays; and Justin Verlander goes for win number 25, squaring off with Jeremy Guthrie and the O’s. Full schedule with probable pitchers here.