OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- The Oakland Athletics are tired of being branded the team that makes the playoffs but never makes it out of the first round.
Pitcher Tim Hudson and his teammates think this season is different.The A's have said all season long that they have the talent to reach the World Series, and they took the first step Tuesday night by clinching their second straight AL West title with a 4-3, 10-inning win over the Texas Rangers.The division was wrapped up about 20 minutes later when second-place Seattle lost 2-1 in 11 innings at Anaheim and the champagne immediately started to flow."I hope you guys are ready for us to do something we haven't done the last couple years, and that's win a championship," Hudson said. "Maybe this is the year we stumble to the finish line and win it all."Adam Melhuse singled past shortstop Alex Rodriguez to drive in the winning run for Oakland, which is in the postseason for the fourth straight year.The A's, who have lost in the first round of the playoffs the past three seasons, trailed Seattle by as many as eight games this year.Oakland players charged onto the field to surround Melhuse, a late-inning defensive replacement, and then stuck around to watch Seattle's game, which was tied in extra innings. Anaheim's Tim Salmon got the second-biggest ovation of the night, behind Melhuse, when he homered in the 11th.Most of the crowd of 23,211 had stayed to watch the end of Seattle's game on the big video screens in the outfield. They got to watch the A's celebrate in the clubhouse from their seats. Many players eventually came out of the dugout to salute the crowd, doing a victory lap and high-fiving fans."We're going do this a couple more times," first-year manager Ken Macha told the crowd.Players were sitting in the A's clubhouse, relaxing and playing cards. When Salmon hit a drive to deep left, they all rose almost in unison. When the ball cleared the fence, the champagne celebration began.Equipment manager Steve Vucinich hung plastic in the clubhouse two different times to protect the players' things -- not knowing until the very end whether there would be a celebration on this night."We're fighting," said 2002 MVP shortstop Miguel Tejada, who had a hit and several defensive gems. "We kept fighting to win the game, and that's why we're here. I'm real proud."Jermaine Dye had driven in the tying run for Oakland with a double to the gap in right-center in the ninth after Todd Greene's solo homer off closer Keith Foulke in the top of the inning put Texas ahead 3-2.Foulke (9-1) pitched two innings for the win, and Francisco Cordero (5-8) blew his AL-high 10th save."Those guys put on an exhibition tonight on how to win a game," Rodriguez said.Erubiel Durazo tied his career high with four hits. Durazo set up the winning run with one-out single off the wall in right-center, then stole second, his first steal this season.Eric Chavez hit an RBI double and Ramon Hernandez singled in the other run for Oakland, which took a 2-0 lead in the fourth before the Rangers came back.The A's put runners on first and second with one out in the eighth after Brian Shouse entered and immediately gave up a single to Durazo and a walk to Chavez, but Tejada grounded into a double play.Rookie right-hander Rich Harden, scratched from his Sunday start for the A's because of back spasms, allowed runners in five of the first six innings but got ahead in the count against most hitters and calmly worked out of jams until the seventh.Texas tied the game in the top of the inning when Jermaine Clark doubled down the left-field line to score Ryan Christenson from first on the hit-and-run.Michael Young struck out, and Harden gave way to lefty reliever Ricardo Rincon. Harden received a standing ovation as he walked from the mound to the dugout.Harden allowed two runs on six hits in 6 2/3 innings, striking out four and walking two in his first career outing against the Rangers.Young got his 200th hit of the season when he led off the first with a single up the middle. Two batters later, Rodriguez tapped his bat to the plate and it split apart high on the handle. Rodriguez was so surprised that he flinched. He switched bats and struck out looking.Texas starter Ryan Drese pitched a season-high 7 1/3 innings in his eighth start this season. After allowing Hernandez's run-scoring single in the fourth to give the A's a 2-0 lead, Drese retired 12 of the next 13 batters.Chavez doubled off the wall in left-center to score Durazo as the A's took a 1-0 lead in the first. Oakland added an unearned run in the fourth. Tejada singled and Rodriguez made an off-balance throw that sailed high over the outstretched glove of first baseman Mark Teixeira for an error and Tejada went to second. Hernandez hit an RBI single to right two batters later to score Tejada for a 2-0 lead.
The A's won their 13th division title and third in four years. ... Texas OF Laynce Nix has a deep bone bruise on his right shin after fouling a ball off his leg Monday night. He is using crutches and doesn't expect to play again this season. ... Drese threw 96 pitches, 62 strikes. He hasn't won since April 30 at
Toronto, a string of seven outings (some in relief). ... Durazo also had four hits against Philadelphia on May 17 last year.