Oakland stuns Texas, wins West on final day


Oakland stuns Texas, wins West on final day

From Comcast SportsNet

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Josh Hamilton made one thing clear: The Texas Rangers will forget their stunning season-ending sweep at Oakland and regroup as an American League wild card.

So much for a third straight AL West crown. Texas needed one win against the upstart Athletics in three games, and didn't get it.

"You guys have a hard time believing we can forget about it and move ahead," Hamilton said. "But that's what we get paid to do. We'll go home, regroup and go figure out what we have to do."

The Athletics captured the AL West with another improbable rally in a season full of them, coming back from four runs down and a 13-game division deficit to beat the two-time defending league champion Rangers 12-5 on Wednesday.

Hamilton dropped a fly ball in center field for a two-run error that put the A's (94-68) ahead 7-5 in a six-run fourth inning. The A's only added to Texas' troubles the rest of the way.

"You can have all the experience as you want but when you run into a team that's hot, experience has nothing to do with it," Rangers manager Ron Washington said.

Texas (93-69) is headed to the new one-game, wild-card playoff at home against Baltimore on Friday night, with the winner playing the New York Yankees in the division series.

The A's get some time off before opening the division series in their first postseason appearance since 2006, playing Game 1 at Detroit on Saturday.

The Athletics needed a sweep and they delivered to win their first division crown in six years and 15th in all. They overcame a five-game deficit in the final nine days and took sole possession of the West's top spot for the first time this year.

"We knew this is a beast of a team we would have to beat, and to be able to beat them three games in a row and win the division on top of it, really it's a magical type thing," manager Bob Melvin said.

Grant Balfour retired Michael Young on a fly to center for the final out, then raised his arms in the air as the A's streamed out of the dugout and began bouncing up and down in the infield.

"2012 AL WEST CHAMPIONS" flashed on the scoreboard two days after the A's clinched a playoff spot Monday and held a wild dance party in the clubhouse.

"I'm glad there's not one tomorrow or Friday," owner Lew Wolff said. "I can relax and go home. I'm running out of underwear."

Players high-fived fans while taking a victory lap through the rundown Coliseum, where the outfield still has a light patch of grass from football in the venue shared by the NFL's Raiders.

Soon, the celebratory champagne and beer made its way to the field -- and players sprayed it into the stands. The A's returned to the field almost an hour later to greet fans still gathered along the top of the dugout.

Oakland pulled off another remarkable performance in a season defined by thrilling walkoffs, rallies and whipped-cream pie celebrations by a team that was never supposed to be here.

A club that trailed Texas by 13 games on June 30. A club with a 59.5 million payroll, lowest in baseball. General manager Billy Beane found ways to get a blue-collar franchise back to the playoffs for the first time since being swept by Detroit in the 2006 AL championship series.

Coco Crisp hit a tying two-run double in the fourth against Derek Holland (12-7) and Brandon Moss drove in three runs, including a two-run single in the four-run eighth.

Rookie winning pitcher Evan Scribner (2-0) left the mound in the sixth to a standing ovation from the sellout crowd of 30,067. He allowed two hits and struck out two in three scoreless innings after replacing struggling starter A.J. Griffin.

Ryan Cook, pitching for a fifth consecutive game, gave up a double to Nelson Cruz before retiring the next three Texas hitters with strikeouts of David Murphy and Mike Napoli. Catcher Derek Norris pumped his right arm as the Coliseum fans jumped to their feet.

Norris then homered leading off the bottom of the eighth for his second RBI. It was his seventh homer and Oakland's majors-leading 112th since the All-Star break.

"Ever since Day 1 I've been here, it's been, the A's can't compete with the payroll, can't compete with this team or that team," Norris said. "We're better off if we're down. It just gives us the extra energy."

The A's join the NL West champion San Francisco Giants as division champions. The Bay Area is already buzzing about a possible Bay Bridge World Series like the 1989 championship swept by Oakland, one interrupted by an earthquake.

Hamilton's miscue while charging forward might haunt the to-be free agent if his Rangers don't get past their wild-card game.

"I just missed it, man," Hamilton said.

Murphy's two-run single highlighted a five-run third inning that put Texas in prime position.

In the fourth, Moss drew a leadoff walk and Josh Reddick followed with an RBI double. Josh Donaldson singled and Seth Smith's base hit made it 5-3 and chased Ryan Dempster with none out and runners on first and second.

Washington turned to the lefty Holland, a starter who was tagged for four runs in the first inning of the second game of Sunday's doubleheader with the Angels before working into the seventh.

He retired the first two batters before Crisp's double down the right-field line.

The only other teams to come back from at least 13 games down to win the division were the 1914 Boston Braves, the 1951 New York Giants, the 78 Yankees and the 95 Seattle Mariners.

"Anything can happen in the long season," said Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish, who will start the wild-card game. "That's why we play 162 games. We're going to forget about this and get ready for the next one."

Now, Texas has all the pressure as they try to make another run deep into October.

These are the same Rangers who twice came within one strike of the franchise's first World Series championship before losing Games 6 and 7 to the wild-card St. Louis Cardinals. It was Texas' second near miss in as many years after losing the 2010 World Series to the Giants.

"We have to go win that playoff game," Napoli said. "We didn't come here to lose. They got it done and we didn't, plain and simple. It's going to be a tough road."

Cubs beat Dodgers, head home with 3-2 lead in NLCS


Cubs beat Dodgers, head home with 3-2 lead in NLCS


LOS ANGELES -- Jon Lester pitched seven sharp innings, Addison Russell hit a tiebreaking homer and the Chicago Cubs moved one win from their first World Series trip in 71 years by beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 8-4 on Thursday.

The Cubs grabbed a 3-2 lead in the NL Championship Series and will have two chances to wrap up that elusive pennant back home at Wrigley Field.

"The city of Chicago has got to be buzzing pretty much right now," manager Joe Maddon said.

The Cubs' first opportunity to clinch comes Saturday night in Game 6, when Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw faces major league ERA leader Kyle Hendricks.

"That's a game we expect to win," Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts said. "This series certainly isn't over."

Emerging star Javier Baez was in the middle of everything for the Cubs, a common theme this October. The second baseman made a sensational defensive play when the game was still close in the seventh, and his three-run double capped a five-run eighth that made it 8-1.

After busting out of his postseason slump Wednesday, Russell hit a two-run homer for the second straight game. This one was a sixth-inning drive off losing pitcher Joe Blanton that gave Chicago a 3-1 lead.

By winning consecutive games in Los Angeles, the Cubs took control of the best-of-seven series after getting shut out in Games 2 and 3.

Of course, there's no need to remind longtime fans that the Cubs were in the same favorable position 13 years ago - heading home to Wrigley Field with a 3-2 lead in the NLCS.

But even with ace pitchers Mark Prior and Kerry Wood starting the final two games, Chicago collapsed against the Marlins in one of its most excruciating failures.

More than a decade later, the franchise is still chasing its first World Series championship since 1908.

Baez had three of Chicago's 13 hits, matching the team's total in Game 4, when the Cubs snapped a 21-inning scoreless streak and won 10-2.

Lester allowed one run and five hits, improving to 2-0 in three playoff starts this year. He has given up two runs in 21 innings.

The left-hander struck out six and walked one.

Anthony Rizzo's run-scoring double gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead in the first.

Los Angeles tied it in the fourth on Adrian Gonzalez's RBI groundout.

After scoring their first run, the Cubs stranded six runners through the first five innings before finding success against the Dodgers' third reliever.

Russell homered on an 0-1 pitch from Blanton, who gave up a single to Baez leading off the sixth. Baez stole second and scored on Russell's shot to center field that put the Cubs ahead on another unusually hot night at Dodger Stadium.

Chicago jumped on struggling Dodgers rookie Kenta Maeda from the start. Dexter Fowler singled leading off the game and scored on Rizzo's double to right two batters later.

Maeda gave up one run and three hits in 3 2/3 innings, struck out six and walked two in losing for the second time in three postseason starts. The right-hander has allowed eight earned runs in 10 2/3 innings with a 6.75 ERA over three appearances.

The Dodgers' defense fell apart in the eighth when the Cubs extended their lead to 8-1.

Gonzalez tried flipping Russell's slow roller to reliever Pedro Baez, who came over to cover first and bobbled the ball for an error.

Pinch-hitter Willson Contreras followed with a single, and the runners moved up on pinch-hitter Albert Almora Jr.'s sacrifice bunt. Fowler reached on an infield single to first, with Gonzalez losing a foot race when Fowler slid into the bag, scoring Russell.

Kris Bryant reached on an infield single to third, with the Dodgers unsuccessfully challenging the call that he was safe.

The Dodgers thought they'd finally escaped the inning on a double play when Rizzo lined to Kike Hernandez, who forced Fowler at second. But the Cubs challenged the call and it was reversed, allowing Chicago to prolong the inning. Baez got yanked after walking Ben Zobrist to load the bases. Ross Stripling came on to face Baez, who doubled to deep right, driving in three more runs.

With the Dodgers trailing 3-1, Gonzalez found himself on the wrong end of a video review for the second straight game.

With Baez playing way out on the outfield grass in shallow right field, the slow-footed Gonzalez tried to take advantage with a drag bunt leading off the seventh. Baez rushed in for a barehanded scoop and off-balance throw, but Gonzalez initially was called safe by first base umpire Ted Barrett. The Cubs challenged and the call was overturned.

In Game 4, Gonzalez was tagged out at home to end the second after sliding with his left hand stretched toward the tip of the plate while Contreras applied the tag near Gonzalez's upper left arm. The Dodgers challenged, and the video review upheld umpire Angel Hernandez's call.


Vin Scully was back at Dodger Stadium for the first time since ending his 67-year career behind the microphone earlier this month.

The 88-year-old Hall of Fame announcer attended as a spectator and proclaimed, "It's time for Dodger baseball!" from an upstairs suite.


Cubs outfielder Matt Szczur isn't on the NLCS roster, but he's contributing. A day after his bat was borrowed by Rizzo to hit a home run, Szczur revealed during an in-game TV interview that Russell wore a pair of his underwear leggings Wednesday after leaving his own at home.


Dodgers: Kershaw takes the mound in Chicago on an extra day of rest. The left-hander is 2-0 with a 3.72 ERA in three starts and one relief appearance this postseason. Overall, the three-time Cy Young Award winner is 4-6 with a 4.39 ERA in 17 career playoff appearances.

Cubs: Hendricks' 2.13 ERA was tops in the majors this season. The right-hander allowed a solo homer in 5 1/3 innings of Game 2, his longest career postseason start. The Cubs lost 1-0 to Kershaw.

Ex-Stanford star hits WNBA title-winning shot for LA Sparks


Ex-Stanford star hits WNBA title-winning shot for LA Sparks

MINNEAPOLIS -- Nneka Ogwumike's short jumper with 3.1 seconds left gave the Los Angeles Sparks a 77-76 victory over the defending champion Minnesota Lynx for their first title in 14 years in the deciding game of the WNBA Finals on Thursday night.

The league MVP joined her teammates in celebration as a stunned crowd slowly filed out after finishing with 12 points and 12 rebounds. Candace Parker had 28 points and 12 rebounds to earn MVP honors of the Finals. It was Parker's first WNBA title.

"She's been through so much," Ogwumike said of Parker. "She's probably the most misunderstood person in the league. I told her I wanted her to get one. She had an awesome game tonight. She's been our leader."

Parker said she listened to one of Pat Summitt's speeches before the game and that motivated her. Her former coach at Tennessee died in late June.

"She would have been proud of our rebounding. It came down to rebounding and defense," Parker said. "I could hear her voice telling me to keep going. She was definitely present tonight."

Rebekkah Brunson made one of two free throws with 23 seconds left to give the Lynx a 74-73 lead. Parker answered with a layup on the other end that Maya Moore countered with a jumper with 15 seconds remaining. Ogwumike's first try for the win was off the mark, but she worked her way over to the loose ball for another attempt that she coolly swished.

Lindsay Whalen's final shot from just inside halfcourt wasn't close, setting off Los Angeles' celebration as Parker and Sparks owner Magic Johnson embraced in a long hug.

Johnson spoke to the team after the loss at home in Game 4 on Sunday. His presence in Minnesota was all the more impressive considering the Dodgers, the other pro club he's invested in, were playing baseball in Los Angeles at the same time in Game 5 of their National League championship series.

"I told them the series wasn't over and that there was still a Game 5 to be played. They had to believe they could do it on a tough home court. This team Minnesota is tremendous," Johnson said. "We just beat the champions so I give them a lot of credit to. Our leaders led us and we had a great coach in Brian and they believed all season long. I told them this was their year. I wanted them to do it for Candace Parker. She deserves to be a champion. Great group of ladies."

Moore had 23 points and 11 assists for the Lynx, who fell short of matching the WNBA record of four championships. The Houston Comets won four straight titles from 1997-2000.

The Lynx played in the finals for the fifth time in the last six years. They won three.

Parker finally had help with the scoring when reserve Chelsea Gray reeled off 11 consecutive points for the Sparks. Gray capped that run with a smooth up-and-under layup to put them in front 60-59 early in the fourth quarter. Parker's putback with 3:06 left gave L.A. a 71-63 lead, putting the Lynx in trouble.

But Moore seized the moment with a 3-pointer that brought Minnesota within four points, and Parker forced an off-balance 3 on the other end.

Whalen stole the ball from Kristi Toliver and finished the fast break with a layup to tie the game at 71, setting up the final flurry.

On the next play, Ogwumike hit a jumper that appeared to come after the shot clock expired. The officials signaled for a review, but never looked at the basket and Los Angeles led 73-71 with just over a minute left.

The WNBA's new postseason format with the field ordered by overall record regardless of conference sure worked well, leading to this classic matchup between the two teams that fought all summer for the top seed and featuring several of the league's biggest stars.

The game was remarkably close, with 11 lead changes and six ties in the first half alone. Moore gave Minnesota its biggest lead of the first 20 minutes with a pair of free throws in the closing seconds of the second quarter to make it 34-28.

The Sparks had an opportunity for a surge when Sylvia Fowles exited with an injury to her right hand, scoring on a fast break while Fowles was wincing in pain by the bench and out of the play and then picking up a bonus point on a free throw for Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve's technical foul.

Augustus and Renee Montgomery knocked down 3-pointers from the top of the key down the stretch of the third quarter, though, and Fowles soon re-entered the game. She made her presence felt with a powerful take to the rim for a layup and a 53-47 lead.


Ogwumike joined Toliver and Essence Carson with three fouls in the first half and played less than 4 minutes in the second quarter.


If the finals return to Minnesota next year, the Lynx could have yet another place in which to try to pop the corks with a major renovation set for Target Center next summer. They'll play across the Mississippi River in St. Paul at Xcel Energy Center, the hockey home of the Minnesota Wild.