A’s trounce Twins to capture AL West again

OAKLAND, Calif. — Coco Crisp hit a three-run homer, Daric Barton and Jed Lowrie each had a solo shot and the Oakland Athletics wrapped up their second straight AL West title while overpowering the Minnesota Twins 11-7 Sunday.

The A’s clinched their 16th division crown and 25th postseason appearance when Texas lost 4-0 at Kansas City earlier.

Athletics outfielder Chris Young gets doused by teammates while celebrating the team’s AL West title on Sunday.

Sonny Gray (4-3) gave up four runs and seven hits in five innings for Oakland. The A’s scored six runs in the second inning and one in each of the next five to set the stage for their own celebration.

Evan Scribner struck out Josmil Pinto swinging for the final out. The A’s sprinted out of the dugout in celebration, jumping around in their gold uniforms to turn the infield into a blur.

For the A’s, it was quite a different scene than a year ago, when they won the AL West on the final day of the regular season by beating Texas to complete a dramatic series sweep.

This year’s run to the postseason — sealed with a week to spare — was far less surprising but equally remarkable.

The A’s had the fourth-lowest opening day payroll at about $65 million. They have a roster full of mostly anonymous and up-and-coming players. And their home is an old, dual-sport stadium where sewage has leaked in the clubhouses and the dugouts in one sickening scene after another this summer.

The A’s still emerged as the team to watch this October in the Bay Area with the San Francisco Giants — winners of two of the last three World Series titles — far out of the postseason picture.

Oakland has won four straight, 10 of 12, and 13 of 16 to move a season-high 30 games over .500.

The A’s, who lost in five games to the eventual AL champion Detroit Tigers in the division series last season, are still trying to get home-field advantage. AL East champion Boston (95-62) currently holds the top spot and AL Central-leading Detroit (91-65) is trying to overtake Oakland (93-63) with six games left.

A’s manager Bob Melvin refused to talk about anything related to the playoffs until his team sealed a spot. He has guided Oakland to consecutive division crowns in his first two full seasons and helped general manager Billy Beane bask in his “Moneyball” fame again.

But Melvin promised to allow his players to pop the bubbly and savor the success whenever they clinched. After tearing down the plastic sheets in the clubhouse when the Rangers won Saturday night, the A’s left nothing to chance.

In the second, Cole De Vries (0-1) walked three straight batters with two outs to set the stage for Oakland’s outburst. Eric Sogard blooped a two-run single, Crisp hit his 22nd home run and Josh Donaldson doubled to put the Athletics ahead 6-1 and whip the green-and-gold clad crowd into a frenzy.

With the Twins batting in the third, word started to circulate around the Coliseum of Justin Maxwell’s two-out grand slam that beat the Rangers in the 10th inning to seal the division title for the A’s. Some players, noticing the high-fives and hollers in the stands, kept glancing at the manual scoreboard in left field.

Maxwell’s slam was shown on the video board between innings, setting off chants of “Let’s go, Oakland!” from the announced crowd of 30,589. Players shared subtle hugs in the dugout.

The excitement subsided briefly when Arcia hit a three-run homer in the third to slice Oakland’s lead to 6-4.

Game notes

Only the Yankees (51) and Dodgers (27) have more postseason appearances than the A’s. … This is the fourth time the A’s have won back-to-back division titles (also 1971-75, 1988-90, 2002-03). … Crisp joined the 20-20 club for the first time when he stole his 20th base in the sixth inning. … Twins general manager Terry Ryan said C Joe Mauer (concussion) had another good day of workouts. The club hopes Mauer can begin baseball activities soon. … RHP Mike Pelfrey (5-13, 5.34) starts for the Twins in their series opener with the Detroit Tigers on Monday night, while A.J. Griffin (14-9, 3.78 ERA) goes for the A’s in their opener at the Los Angeles Angels.

This article was originally posted on ESPN.com