Rangers celebrate second consecutive AL West crown

Posted Saturday, Sep. 24, 2011  comments  Print Reprints

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ARLINGTON -- Some players and coaches pulled a chair up to the nearest TV in the Texas Rangers' clubhouse, and others camped out on the grass near their dugout to watch the videoboard in right field.

They had taken care of their half of a division-winning equation Friday night, and they needed second-place Los Angeles to lose to Oakland to finish it off.

The Rangers weren't alone. The majority of the lower seating bowl at Rangers Ballpark was filled with fans watching right along with them.

Fans cringed when the Angels pulled even in the seventh inning. They cheered when the A's took the lead back in the eighth.

But it was nothing compared to the noise they made when the Angels lost, and nothing like the party that erupted on the field and in the clubhouse as the Rangers celebrated their second straight American League West crown.

"Beginning of the season to now is unbelievable," said Michael Young, the Rangers' all-time hits leader. "This never gets old. Thirty-five guys acting like little kids, it's a whole season worth of work and now we have a chance to go for the ultimate goal. It's just a beautiful thing right now.

Of clinching the title at home, Young said, "That was pretty sweet. I mean, thousands of people still there, it was awesome."

"This is awesome," said Rangers reliever Mike Adams, acquired in a July trade. "This is why I came over here. This is the best feeling I've ever had in pro sports, this is awesome. The only thing is, we ain't finished yet."

The Rangers are heading back to the playoffs, with their opponent in the AL Division Series to be determined.

They clinched a tie for the West when they backed Matt Harrison with three home runs, including an inside-the-park homer by Craig Gentry, to beat Seattle 5-3.

The ginger ale, champagne and beer started to flow after Gio Gonzalez allowed one run in 7 1/3 innings to help the A's past the Angels 3-1.

The Rangers, whose lead is six games with five to play, won their 91st game of the season. That's one more than the 2010 team that advanced to the World Series.

"It's been a total team effort," Young said. "Everyone's done their part. You talk about Craig tonight. Those are the kind of guys we're happy for.

"Obviously, some people get a little more publicity. Some people's roles might be a little bigger. But everyone has a role, and everyone takes responsibility for it and everyone does it well."

He said of his team, "We just know what needs to be done."

The good news for the Rangers is that they won't have to beat reigning Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez today to clinch the title, even though they beat the right-hander Sunday for a third time this season.

Anthony Vasquez started for the Mariners on Friday, and he's no Hernandez.

Vasquez, who allowed three homers Sept. 17 in a loss to the Rangers, was tagged for a two-run shot by Adrian Beltre in the second inning. Josh Hamilton followed with a 433-foot solo shot in the third, and Gentry raced around the bases for his first career homer in the fourth.

Gentry was as good as gone once left fielder Mike Carp and center fielder Trayvon Robinson both dived for -- and missed --his fly ball into the left-center-field gap.

Gentry didn't even have to slide to complete the Rangers' first inside-the-park homer since Nelson Cruz had one in 2006. Cruz, who is nursing a strained left hamstring, scored just ahead of Gentry for a 5-0 lead.

"Well, it was kind of depending on Nellie," Gentry said. "I stopped coming around first because I wasn't sure if he was going to make it around second, but once I hit second base, I knew they were going to send me, so I kicked it in gear right there."

Harrison (14-9) was pitching so well that it looked like the Rangers would coast home. He cruised through five innings, allowing only a one-out single to Alex Liddi in the third inning.

But Harrison would walk Liddi to start the sixth, and the Mariners would score three times.

The Rangers and Harrison survived, and four relievers allowed only two base runners over the final three innings. Neftali Feliz pitched a scoreless ninth for his 30th save to send the Rangers into a waiting game.

The wait was well worth it.

Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760

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