O.CO COLISEUM — The A’s won the West Sunday afternoon in decisive fashion, sealing their 16th division title in franchise history with an 11-7 victory over the Minnesota Twins.
The day didn’t start as planned for the Athletics. Sonny Gray was a little shaky on the mound, giving up a lead-off single to Alex Presley and then throwing the ball away on a pick-off attempt, allowing Presley to end up on third. He eventually scored on a single by Oswaldo Arcia.
But the powerful A’s offense got that run back and plenty more in the bottom of the second.
With two outs, Cole De Vries walked Josh Reddick, Darin Barton, and Stephen Vogt to load the bases. Eric Sogard dropped a bloop single into shallow left, giving the A’s the lead.
The big blow came next off the bat of Coco Crisp , as he launched a three-run home run – his 22nd of the year – to right field. Jed Lowrie singled and came home on a double by Josh Donaldson, and suddenly it was 6-1 Athletics.
While the A’s were having their big inning in Oakland, the Kansas City Royals were doing their part, with Justin Maxwell crushing a walk-off tenth-inning grand slam to beat the Texas Rangers.
The Texas loss gave the Athletics the West, and the crowd of 30,589 erupted as the grand slam was shown on the scoreboard. Sogard said that it was tough to hold off on the celebration:
“It was obviously exciting, I mean, that’s the ultimate clinch. But you know, we wanted to continue to focus on that game, get the win, and really enjoy it with our teammates and our fans.”
Oakland batters — who’ve hit 68 home runs in the last 43 games — weren’t done for the day. They’d add some insurance runs on solo shots from Barton and Lowrie and a sacrifice fly from both Reddick and Moss. Crisp also tacked on an RBI single, just for good measure, in the seventh.
It turns out that the A’s would need those runs, as the pitching would struggle a bit. Gray went five innings, allowing seven hits and four runs.
Arcia turned out to be the offense for the Twins on Sunday. He went four-for-five with six RBIs, including his own three-run homer in the third and a two-run single in the ninth. Arcia’s 14 long balls for the season are the most of any rookie in the American League.
Minnesota added a run in the seventh against Brett Anderson on an RBI single off the bat of Brian Dozier that brought home Eric Fryer.
The A’s scored 39 runs in the four-game set against the Twins, which ties a franchise record for the most runs in a series. They’re hoping to carry that momentum into the postseason after clinching their second-straight Western Division Championship.
Donaldson said that sweeping the Rangers in Texas last weekend already gave them a lot of momentum:
“Being able to go into their place, and go in there and win every game, I think that sent a statement to people around the league to say that we’re for real and we have big dreams this year.”
Reddick said that this team has grown in the last year after a first-round exit from the 2012 postseason and that the A’s are ready to play their brand of baseball in October:
“I think we’re a little bit better. We’re a bit more mature as a team. We’ve got that experience under our belts, most of us now, so we know what to expect from it. We’re not a team that has a lot of media coverage, and we know now that’s what it’s gonna be like in the playoffs. But we gotta put all that stuff behind us and just go out there and play baseball like it’s September 21st in October.”
Gray has allowed 20 of his 22 runs this year in the first three innings of a game. He has a 5.66 ERA in innings one through three and a 0.56 ERA from the fourth inning on. … Barton is hitting .319 in 24 games since being brought up from triple-A on August 26, and the A’s have gone 20-4 in games which he has played since then. … Crisp stole his 20th base of the season in the sixth inning and is now the 10th player in Athletics history with 20 home runs and 20 steals in a season. The last was Ruben Sierra in 1993.