x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

And the crowd goes wild

Oakland's sweep of Texas on the final day completed a remarkable turnaround, writes Carroll Rogers .

Oakland Athletics celebrate the AL West title after their 12-5 win over Texas Rangers.
Oakland Athletics celebrate the AL West title after their 12-5 win over Texas Rangers.

So much for celebrating the wild card. The Oakland Athletics went on and won the American League West while they were at it.

Two days after celebrating at least a berth in Friday's one-game wild-card play-off, Oakland shocked Texas by completing a three-game sweep to earn a shot at Detroit in the best-of-five division series.

The Oakland A's, labelled by some of their own fans the Triple-A's before the season started, spent one day of the 2012 season alone in first place in the division: the last one.

"We were like a train," A's designated hitter Jonny Gomes told MLB.com. "We got on that track and just kept it going. No east and west, we knew we were just going north."

The A's came back from five games down with nine games left to make their first post-season since 2006.

They rallied from four runs down to win their last game against Texas 12-5, their seventh victory this year when trailing by four or more runs. The A's took the lead 7-5 after Rangers centre fielder and former AL Most Valuable Player Josh Hamilton dropped a flyball.

It was symbolic of the shock the entire Rangers team felt.

The A's trailed the two-time defending AL West champions by 13 games on June 30. But they became only the fifth team in major league history to come back from at least 13 games down to win a division, joining the 1914 Boston Braves, the 1951 New York Giants, the 1978 Yankees and the 1995 Seattle Mariners.

They did it with the lowest payroll in baseball at US$59.5 million (Dh218.4m) and after trading away former ace Gio Gonzalez to Washington, where he won 21 games, as well as All-Star pitchers Trevor Cahill (Arizona) and Andrew Bailey (Boston).

Oakland's Opening Day starter Brandon McCarthy was lost for the season after taking a line drive to the head on September 5. Bartolo Colon was slapped with a 50-game suspension after testing positive for synthetic testosterone.

So the A's came down the stretch with four rookies in their starting rotation, and a rookie No 3 hitter.

The result? The Athletics had a 3.59 ERA after the All-Star break and collected 54 wins overall from rookie pitchers.

The last of those came in the final game of the season when Evan Scribner picked up the win after three scoreless innings of relief. That rookie outfielder - the Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes - hit .292 with 23 home runs and 82 RBIs. Oakland went 82-46 in games he played and 12-22 without him.

The A's did it with power, pitching and intangibles. They led the majors with 14 walk-off victories.

Fittingly, on Wednesday, they walked off champions.

sports@thenational.ae