Baseball Report – September 16, 2013

Sports
September 23, 2013

By Bob Hurst

This time, the Oakland A’s didn’t make their fans wait until the final day.

The A’s clinched the American League West Division title on Sunday when Texas lost at Kansas City during their game. Oakland then went on to an 11-7 win at home over Minnesota.

Last season, the A’s defeated the Rangers on the final day to sweep the series and win the division title.

“I think last year we surprised a lot of people,” A’s third baseman Josh Donaldson said. “I think this year we’re an all-around better team and we feel like we belong.”

Oakland, which improved to 93-63 with Sunday’s victory, won its 16th division title and will make its 25th postseason appearance. It was the A’s fourth straight win and 13th out of their last 16 games to move to a season-high 30 games over .500.

Now the A’s will focus on preparing for the playoffs, and avoiding losing in the divisional series after dropping a divisional-round series in five games to Detroit last year.

“Last year, it was euphoria at the end,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “We were happy to be there. But this is just a whole different feel this year. We really did expect to be here as a team.”

Braves and Dodgers clinch too: The Atlanta Braves, who are no Johnny-come-latelies in the postseason, with numerous appearances over the past 20 years, sealed the National League East crown on Sunday with a Washington loss before beating the Chicago Cubs on the road.

“What a great feeling,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “It really is a great feeling to realize we’ve played 150-some games to get to this point.”

Atlanta, which finished Sunday with a 92-63 record, will make its third playoff appearance in four years. But it’s the Braves first division title since 2005. They were NL East champions for 11 straight years from 1995 to 2005, and won 14 of 15 from 1991 to 2005.

Last season, Atlanta lost in a one-game wild-card playoff to St. Louis.

“We know last year what happened,” Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons said. “We played pretty good, but not good enough and we had to deal with a one-game playoff thing. Now we know we’ve got some time, we’ve got some games to work with. We’ve got a little bit of time to rest our players.”

The Los Angeles Dodgers became the first team this season to clinch a postseason berth when they defeated Arizona 7-6 last Thursday. They celebrated by jumping into the pool at the Diamondbacks’ Chase Field.

“I want to keep going,” said Hanley Ramirez, who hit two home runs in the game. “We’ve got to keep working and stay together all the way through to the end.”

The Dodgers came a long way from a 30-42 start to the season, going 60-24 since, through Sunday’s game. They will be making their 18th playoff appearance since moving to Los Angeles in 1958.

“This is a great accomplishment for these guys,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “We put great team together and a big payroll with huge expectations. The players came together, we got healthy, and then we just rolled.”

Yankees honor Rivera: The New York Yankees honored closer Mariano Rivera on Sunday at Yankee Stadium in his last home game before he retires. The ceremony included visits from ex-teammates Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams and Tino Martinez, along with former manager Joe Torre.

The Yankees retired Rivera’s No. 42 jersey, placing his number in Monument Park, making him the first active Yankee to receive the honor. Rivera is the last player in Major League Baseball to wear No. 42, which was retired by MLB in honor of Jackie Robinson, who broke the color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Robinson’s wife, Rachel, and daughter, Sharon, also attended the ceremony.

“The whole thing was special. I wasn’t expecting something like that,” Rivera said.

Rivera entered the game in the eighth inning, relieving Andy Pettitte, who was making his last home start as a Yankee. Rivera pitched 1 2/3 innings, allowing a hit and striking out one.

“The way he’s went about his business is something you wish that everyone could do,” said Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who was Rivera’s catcher from 1996-99. “I would tell my son or my kids this is an example of how you’re supposed to go about your work.”

StatsWatch: Yankees closer Marian Rivera’s career statistics (through Sunday):

• Baseball’s all-time saves leader with 652.
• MLB-record 42 postseason saves.
• Five-time World Series champion.
• With 44 saves this season, is the only pitcher to ever record a 40-save season at age 40 or older, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. • 82-60 career record, with 2.21 ERA.
• 6-2 record this season, with 2.15 ERA.
• 19 major-league seasons.
• 13-time All-Star.

Copyright  2013 Bob Hurst. All Rights Reserved. Distributed by Hurst Sports Media.