Los Angeles won for the 10th time in 11 games, 4-3 over Oakland on Tuesday, clinching its second straight AL West title. Bengie Molina homered and doubled for the Angels, who are set to make their third postseason appearance in the last four seasons.
Closer Francisco Rodriguez recorded the final three outs on Tuesday as the Angels eliminated the Athletics from contention. Los Angeles celebrated for the second straight season at the McAfee Coliseum, where they also clinched last season on the final weekend.
“It could have turned the other way in a heartbeat,” Los Angeles manager Mike Scioscia said. “This team had to play very well to beat that club over there. It’s good we didn’t let it drag on. … They were in grind mode all year and got this first step done.”
Although the Angels have clinched the division, they still have incentive to finish their final five games of the season. Los Angeles trails AL East co-leaders Boston and the New York Yankees by one game and can still earn home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
The Angels would also like to see slugger Garret Anderson get back on track. Anderson is 1-for-15 (.067) in four games after missing three contests due to a sore lower back.
“To state the obvious, when it equates to getting hits, I’m not getting hits,” Anderson said. “No matter what I say, it’s always going to sound like an excuse.”
Oakland will miss the playoffs for the second straight season after making four straight appearances that resulted in division series losses in five games each time. The A’s were tied for first place on Sept. 15 before losing seven of 11 games to fade from contention.
“This team made a good run, showed a lot of character, a lot of heart,” Oakland center fielder Mark Kotsay said. “We’ll finish up the season, but the opportunity of making the playoffs is gone and that’s disappointing.”
Los Angeles starter Paul Byrd, who is 3-1 with a 1.85 ERA over his last five starts, will get a final chance to audition for a rotation spot in the playoffs. Byrd surrendered five runs and 10 hits over 4 2-3 innings in a 7-5 win over Tampa Bay last Friday.
The veteran right-hander is 0-3 with a 6.67 ERA in six career starts against Oakland. Byrd is 0-1 with a 4.32 ERA in three outings against the A’s this season.
Dan Haren will make his first start for Oakland since signing a $12.65 million, four-year contract on Monday. Acquired from St. Louis for Mark Mulder in the offseason, Haren was rewarded after pitching a career-high 210 innings this season and notching 13 wins.
“He’s been pretty unflappable,” A’s manager Ken Macha said. “He didn’t put pressure on himself to replace Mulder.”
The right-hander has been victimized by poor run support in his last two outings, going 0-2 with a 2.57 ERA as Oakland has managed only two runs. Haren yielded two runs and seven hits over seven innings last Friday in a 2-1 loss to Texas.