A's on verge of AL West title after beating Twins

The SportsXchange

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Put the champagne on ice. The Oakland Athletics could be celebrating their second straight American League West championship on Saturday after routing the Minnesota Twins 11-0 on Friday night at the O.co Coliseum.

The A's victory combined with the second-place Texas Rangers' 2-1 loss to Kansas City cut Oakland's magic number to win the West to two. If Oakland beats the Twins on Saturday afternoon and the Rangers lose to the Royals at night, the A's can pop the corks.

A's right-hander Bartolo Colon (17-6) blanked the Twins for six innings, allowing five hits, striking out eight and walking one for his third straight win.

"I'm going to try to enjoy it the max I can because who knows what's going on next year," said Colon, 40, looking forward to a celebration.

Yoenis Cespedes hit his career-high 25th home run of the season, a solo shot leading off the second inning that gave the A's a 1-0 lead. Josh Donaldson hit his career-high 24th home run in the sixth, a two-run blast to that extended the A's lead to 11-0.

Last year the A's won the West on the final day of the regular season with a victory over Texas in Oakland. This year they've had some time to plan ahead.

"I'm planning on actually getting goggles this year because last year my eyes were burning," Donaldson said. "Besides that, we still got to go out there and take care of business."

If the A's beat the Twins in the afternoon, they'll have a long wait to see whether Kansas City will help them win the West by beating Texas.

A's manager Bob Melvin said he hasn't thought about how his team would handle that situation. Neither have his players.

"It will be something I've never experienced," catcher Derek Norris said. "I'll just have to ask that after we get that win tomorrow. But when we come down to it we'll figure it out."

Coming into the game, the A's had hit 60 home runs in their previous 40 games -- 11 more than any other team in the major leagues during that stretch. After Friday, make that 62 homers in 41 games.

Donaldson went 2-for-3, drove in two runs, scored twice and raised his average to .306. He reached base safely for the 25th straight game. Norris, Alberto Callaspo and Josh Reddick each had two hits.

"Similar to last year, we really have hit our stride in the second half," A's manager Bob Melvin said.

As the A's came to bat in the bottom of the fourth with a 3-0 lead, the final score from Kansas City was posted on the out-of-town scoreboard and the sellout crowd of 36,067 on Star Wars Fireworks Night roared its approval.

And yes, the A's noticed.

"How can you not be aware of it when they put it on the big screen?" Donaldson said. "They zoomed in on it. I think everybody pretty much saw it."

Twins left-hander Andrew Albers (2-4) gave up eight runs and eight hits in 4 2/3 innings, but only three of those runs were earned. Minnesota hurt itself with three errors in the first five innings and added error No. 4 in the seventh.

"Really an ugly nightmare," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Colon pretty much dominated us. We threw the ball around, missed the ball and had some trouble in the outfield. Every time we missed a play they took full advantage of it."

Colon threw his fifth strong game since being activated from the disabled list on Aug. 29 after recovering from a strained groin. The rest actually gave his arm a boost.

"I feel stronger right now," Colon said. "My velocity's coming back."

The A's grabbed a 3-0 lead in the second inning. Cespedes launched Albers' 3-2 sinker into the left-center seats, above and had beyond the 388-foot mark. Norris lined a double to right field that Twins right fielder Oswaldo Arcia appeared to lose in the lights -- he turned away as the ball zipped past him. With one out, Norris moved to third on Callaspo's groundout. Reddick brought Norris home, beating out an infield single.

The A's took advantage of an Arcia error to make it 3-0. Daric Barton lined a single down the right-field line that hopped over Arcia's glove for a two-base error, as Reddick scored from first.

Oakland extended its lead to 4-0 with a run in the fourth. Norris hit a leadoff single, stole second with one out and raced to third when catcher Chris Herrmann's throw went into center field for an error. Callaspo lined an RBI single to left.

NOTES: Cespedes (right shoulder tendinitis) returned to the lineup at designated hitter after missing Thursday night's game. Cespedes received a cortisone injection in his throwing shoulder after Wednesday's game against the Los Angeles Angels in hopes of speeding his recovery and having him return to the lineup in left field. Melvin said Cespedes felt "good enough to DH," but he's not ready to throw and play in the outfield. ... Twins 3B Trevor Plouffe (strained left wrist) was out of the lineup. He left Thursday night's game after striking out in the top of the eighth and feeling some pain in his wrist, which he said has been nagging him off and on since June.
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