Braves-Cardinals, Rangers-Orioles jump-start baseball's new-look postseason.
St. Louis will send out 16-game winner Kyle Lohse against Kris Medlen and the Atlanta Braves Friday evening at Turner Field. The Braves have won the last 23 games in which Medlen has started. He is 16-1 this year.
Following that game, Yu Darvish will start the Texas Rangers' first playoff game, a one-game wild-card playoff Friday against Baltimore. The 26-year-old Darvish is 16-9 with a 3.90 ERA in 29 starts. The 6-foot-5 right-hander has 221 strikeouts to just 89 walks and was an All-Star.
The Washington Nationals await the Atlanta-St. Louis winner on Sunday. NL Central winner Cincinnati opens Saturday night against San Francisco. Johnny Cueto goes for the Reds against 16-game winner Matt Cain of the Giants.
The AL East champion New York Yankees play the Texas-Baltimore winner on the road Sunday. AL Central winner Detroit sends out 17-game winner Justin Verlander against AL West champ Oakland on Saturday evening.
Low-budget Athletics shock Rangers, win AL West...Yanks clinch AL East
UNDATED (AP) - The Oakland A's were 13 games out of first place on June 30th. Today, they American League West champions for the first time since 2006.
Needing a three-game sweep over Texas to have a shot at the West title, the A's did just that. Oakland, with one of the lowest payrolls in baseball, rallied from a 5-1 deficit and beat the Texas Rangers 12-5 on a sun-splashed afternoon at an electric Oakland Coliseum.
The sun was an enemy to Rangers center fielder Josh Hamilton in the fourth inning. He dropped a two-out fly ball by Yoenis Cespedes allowing two runs to score and giving Oakland a 7-5 lead. Texas squandered a five-game division lead in the final nine days.
-- It took until the 162nd game, but the New York Yankees captured the American League East by routing Boston 14-2. The Yanks did it with the long ball. They routed Daisuke Matsuzaka for five runs in less than three innings. Curtis Granderson hit a three-run home run in the second and a solo shot in the seventh to give him 43 homers. Robinson Cano connected for a pair of two-run homers and drove in six. The Yanks have hit a club-record 245 home runs. It's the Yanks' 13th AL East title in 17 years.
-- Baltimore goes as the wild card. The Orioles lost at Tampa Bay 4-0. Evan Longoria hit three solo homers. Longoria's second career three-homer game came a year after the three-time All-Star hit two of them of the final night of last season, including a 12th-inning game-ending shot that clinched a postseason berth. His bid for the first four-homer game in franchise history ended when he grounded out in the eighth.
In other AL finals:
-- The AL Central champion Detroit Tigers, with Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera going 0-for-2 before leaving to a standing ovation, prepped for the playoffs by blanking Kansas City 1-0.
- Casper Wells tied a career-high with five RBIs including a three-run homer in Seattle's six-run seventh inning, and the Mariners closed out the 2012 season with a 12-0 rout of the Los Angeles Angels. Angels' starter Jered Weaver pitched just one inning before leaving the game. Weaver finished 20-5. He had a chance to become the fourth pitcher in Angels' history to reach 21 wins, but called it a season early after giving up two runs, two hits and walking two batters in the first inning. The team said Weaver had "general fatigue" as the reason he threw just one inning.
- Brandon Morrow struck out a season-high 11, Omar Vizquel wrapped up his 24-year career and the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Minnesota Twins 2-1 to complete a three-game sweep.
- Dan Johnson hit his first three homers of the season and Chicago added two more in the game as the White Sox routed the Cleveland Indians 9-0.
Over in the NL:
--The Washington Nationals have wrapped up home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Nats, who had already clinched the National League East, secured home-field with a 5-1 win over Philadelphia. They end the regular season with 98 wins, just three seasons after they won just 59 games.
Nationals manager Davey Johnson is expected to be all right for the playoffs. He left the dugout in the seventh inning Wednesday because of numbness in his left leg, the result of pinched nerves in his back.
- The playoff-bound Braves beat the Pirates in Pittsburgh 4-0. The game was the swan song for Chipper Jones, who had a pinch-hit single in the final regular-season game of his career. The Pirates finished 79-83, extending their record streak of losing seasons to 20.
- Rookie right-hander Shelby Miller took a no-hitter into the sixth inning in his first career start, Matt Carpenter had a run-scoring single and the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Cincinnati Reds 1-0. Both teams already had wrapped up playoff spots.
- Bryan LaHair's walk-off single gave the Chicago Cubs a 5-4 win over Houston. The Cubs wind up 61-101 and Houston finishes its final National League season with a dreadful 55-107 record. This was the first series between two 100-game losers since 1962. Houston's 107 defeats set a club record. The Astros became the first team with 106 or more losses in consecutive seasons since the 1964-65 New York Mets.
- Clayton Kershaw finished with a major league-leading 2.53 ERA, Adrian Gonzalez singled in the go-ahead run in the sixth inning, and the Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the San Francisco Giants 5-1.
- The Mets beat the Marlins 4-2. Ike Davis hit his 32nd home run. Scott Hairston and Andres Torres also went deep.
- Jeff Francis earned his first victory in more than a month and the Colorado Rockies used two unearned runs to beat Ian Kennedy and the Arizona Diamondbacks 2-1.
-- San Diego nipped Milwaukee 7-6. Chase Headley drove in two runs, finishing the season with an NL-leading 115 RBIs.
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