Rangers clinch AL West ti­tle

Los Angeles Times - - Baseball - Kevin Bax­ter kevin.bax­ter@latimes.com

Ron Washington slumped on the bench in an oth­er­wise empty dugout and smiled a smile that said he was hid­ing a se­cret.

Spring train­ing was still un­fold­ing but al­ready the fo­cus was on the An­gels and Seat­tle Mariners. Washington’s Rangers weren’t even an af­ter­thought out­side Texas.

“I know we can play base­ball,” Washington said with a grin. “We just have to go out there and play.”

That faith and con­fi­dence was re­warded Satur­day when Jorge Cantu’s eighth-in­ning home run lifted the Rangers to a 4-3 win over the Oak­land Ath­let­ics, giv­ing Texas its first Amer­i­can League West ti­tle in more than a decade.

But things are far from de­cided in the Na­tional League, where Troy Tu­low­itzki’s 10th-in­ning dou­ble scored Car­los Gon­za­lez as the Colorado Rock­ies ral­lied from a three­run deficit to beat San Fran­cisco, 10-9. That, cou­pled with San Diego’s dra­matic walk-off win over Cincin­nati ear­lier in the day, moved the Padres back into first place in the West by a half-game over San Fran­cisco. The loss dropped the Giants into a tie with vic­to­ri­ous At­lanta for the lead in the wild-card race.

By the time all that hap­pened, the Rangers were al­ready par­ty­ing like it was 1999 — the last time Texas reached the post­sea­son.

“We com­mit­ted to do some­thing and we got it done,” Washington, wear­ing a cham­pagne-soaked West Di­vi­sion cham­pion T-shirt, told re­porters. “It’s bet­ter than any­thing I’ve ever ex­pe­ri­enced.”

The Rangers’ win leaves the East the only AL di­vi­sion still up for grabs. And Tampa Bay is try­ing to bring that to a quick end as well.

Be­hind seven strong in­nings from Matt Garza (15-9) the Rays beat Seat­tle, 9-1, to win their fourth straight while the Yan­kees lost their fourth in a row at home, drop­ping a 9-3 de­ci­sion to Bos­ton and Jon Lester. That pushed Tampa’s lead over New York to 1½ games with eight games to play.

San Diego won when Chris Denor­fia dou­bled with two out in the ninth, scor­ing Chase Headley to give the Padres a 4-3 vic­tory. And in Colorado, the Giants started the day by com­plain­ing to the com­mis­sioner’s of­fice that the Rock­ies might be giv­ing “juiced” balls to the um­pires when they were bat­ting. The Rock­ies then went out and pounded San Fran­cisco for 17 hits, be­com­ing the first team in 19 games to score more than three runs against Giants pitch­ing. The win moved Colorado to within four games of first in the di­vi­sion race and 3½ in the wild-card stand­ings.

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