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A's clinch AL West, then win game

The SportsXchange

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Well before the end of their game against the Minnesota Twins on Sunday, the Oakland A's knew that they were the American League West champions.

The Texas Rangers' loss earlier in the day gave the A's the division title for the second season in a row, but by that time, Oakland already had taken firm control of its own game, scoring six runs with two outs in the second inning en route to an 11-7 win over Minnesota.

"Anything short of a World Series title will be a disappointment," A's third baseman Josh Donaldson declared. "We're going places this year."

Last year, the A's won the West on the last day of the season. They did it with a week to go this time around, giving the team plenty of time to set up its pitching for the postseason and to rest key players as needed.

"Last year we were just happy to be there," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "This year we have some unfinished business. We need to rest some guys and get some guys completely healthy."

In the third inning of the A's game, the Oakland scoreboard showed that the Kansas City Royals had defeated the Rangers 4-0 in 10 innings.

"I could tell that something had happened," A's starter Sonny Gray said of the buzz in the Coliseum when the Royals loaded the bases, followed by cheers after Texas' loss. "I just tried to stay focused."

The A's knew then they were division champs.

"It was kind of weird," Melvin said. "You almost prefer it not (be that way). We shook hands, a few hugs, but we kept our focus even though there was a bit of a distraction."

The A's still wanted to celebrate with a victory.

"It was nice," A's pitcher A.J. Griffin said of seeing the Rangers' loss, "but we still wanted to kick some butt. It's way better when it comes with a win."

Just before the Rangers' score was displayed, the A's put up a half-dozen runs on Twins starter Cole De Vries, who retired the first two hitters in the second before walking three in a row and giving up a two-run single to No. 9 hitter Eric Sogard. Coco Crisp followed with a three-run homer to right, and then Jed Lowrie singled and scored on a double by Josh Donaldson.

Daric Barton added a solo homer in the third and Lowrie a solo shot in the fourth. Both came off Minnesota reliever Shairon Maris. Josh Reddick hit a sacrifice fly in the fifth, Brandon Moss had one in the sixth, and Crisp knocked a two-out RBI single in the seventh.

The A's have hit 68 homers in the past 43 games, by far a major league high in that span. Washington is next, with 50.

Gray (4-3) threw five innings of four-run ball. De Vries (0-1) was charged with six runs in two innings. He was pitching with a heavy heart, he said, because his grandfather, Leonard De Vries, died one day earlier at the age of 90.

"He meant a lot to me and was a big part of my life, especially baseball," De Vries said, "and I wanted nothing more than to go out there and pitch a good game given the circumstances. But it didn't work out that way."

Crisp's steal in the sixth inning gave him 20 for the season, making him the A's 10th 20-20 player and the first since Ruben Sierra in 1993.

"It's an accomplishment I thought I would never accomplish," Crisp said.

The A's still would like to continue their hot streak in order to secure home-field advantage throughout the postseason. Boston holds the league's best record, at 95-62. Oakland is 93-63 with six games remaining. Detroit is 91-65.

"We're not going to stop because we won the West," Reddick said. "This gives us some breathing room, but we're still playing for home-field advantage."

The A's clinched the 17th postseason appearance in Oakland history and 25th appearance in franchise history. Only the Yankees (51) and Dodgers (27) have more. The A's have won 16 AL West titles. Only the Yankees (18) and Braves (16) have more division championships.

A's owner Lew Wolff joined the players in the clubhouse and didn't mind getting doused with Champagne.

"I just love being a part of this," he said. "(Other owners) may save their suits, but they're missing something."

The Twins have lost six of their past seven games, and they dropped each of their final six games against the A's -- who scored at least eight runs in all six of those games and outscored Minnesota 68-22 for the season.

"They are a fun baseball team to watch," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "They get after the game pretty hard. They believe in themselves. Bob has done a fantastic job over there, him and his staff, with that baseball team. They play the game the right way and respect the game. So congratulations to those guys."

NOTES: The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the A's will switch up their rotation and have Tommy Milone start the first game at Anaheim on Monday. ... Twins C Joe Mauer (concussion) had a full workout at Target Field, and he has been symptom free for several days. Mauer potentially could appear in one of Minnesota's final games this week. ... Minnesota RHP Anthony Swarzak remained away from the team for personal reasons but is expected to rejoin the team Monday. ... Melvin said that 1B Nate Freiman (abdominal strain) was not available Sunday and might not play in this week's series against the Los Angeles Angels at Anaheim.
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