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Hot Coco Helps A's Put AL West To Bed

Jason O. Watson

Final Score: A's 11, Twins 7

This was a confusing day, with the A's magic number at 1 and the Texas-KC game getting a 2-hour head start. Further complicating matters, the Rangers and Royals went into the 10th inning 0-0. So the A's set out to play ball, and came to bat in the bottom of the 2nd trailing 1-0.

In baseball, things can turn in a hurry. Cole DeVries needed just 18 pitches to retire the first 5 batters he faced, but then had to throw another 38 pitches before he could get the last out of the 2nd. In between, first he walked the bases loaded and then Eric Sogard delivered a bloop single to LF that plated 2 runs and gave the A's a 2-1 lead. With Texas and KC still battling scoreless, Coco Crisp hit arguably the "clinching blast" when he launched his 22nd HR of the season just inside the RF foul pole to vault the A's in front 5-1. Jed Lowrie singled, Josh Donaldson doubled, and it was 6-1 before DeVries finally escaped the 2nd inning.

Thus, Sonny Gray took a 6-1 lead to the 3rd, as Kansas City loaded the bases with nobody out in the bottom of the 10th. But Mike Moustakas popped up. And George Kottaras bounced into a force at home. Oh noes! No clinchies yet. By the way, the Twins got a couple runners on base against Gray, so anyway...KC's Justin Maxwell crushed a walk-off grand slam to eliminate Texas from AL West contention -- and moments later Gray served up a 3-run HR to Oswaldo Arcia to put the Twins right back in the game, 6-4. And the fans were standing, cheering, celebrating, because the A's had just clinched the AL West. Perhaps a bit anti-climactic that Gray gave up the 3-run HR when he did, but let the good times roll!

And roll they did. The A's put up a picket fence (that's a series of 1s) by adding on with single runs in the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th, one coming on Daric Barton's 3rd HR of the season (Barton was 3 for 3 with a BB, a single, a double, and a HR), another on Lowrie's 14th HR of the year, one brought home by Crisp as part of his 4-RBI day.

Gray's 5 IP of 4 ER ball were enough to get him win #4 and the game even ended with a flourish. Trailing 11-5 going to the 9th Minnesota put up a fight with a single (Alex Presley) and double (Brian Dozier) opening the frame against Evan Scribner. Trevor Plouffe struck out before Arcia delivered a 2-run single to RF on which Josh Reddick fired a laser beam to the 1B bag that caught Arcia napping as he rounded 1B and couldn't get back. Scribner then struck out Josmil Pinto to end the game and...clinch the AL West again? We'll go with that.

8.5 up with 6 to play, folks. Congratulations to the 2013 Oakland A's, winners of the AL West and still just 1.5 back of Boston for the AL's best record. It remains unknown whom the A's will face in the ALDS, but the fact that Oakland will be there is now official.