October 4, 2012
In a shocking development, the Oakland Athletics swept the Texas Rangers in a three-game series and thereby claimed the American League West title. It was a humbling, rude jolt to the team that had won two consecutive pennants and had come within a single strike -- twice! -- of winning the World Series last year. As in politics, the advantages of being an "incumbent" are often overestimated. A key turning point was when center fielder Josh Hamilton dropped a pop fly in the fourth inning, extending a big rally by the home team. See MLB.com.
For the very first time in five and a half years of trying, the "Teddy Roosevelt" mascot won the presidents' race at Nationals Park. He was helped by a faux Phillie Phanatic mascot. This amazing event may have sparked the Nationals' offense, as Ryan Zimmerman hit a game-tying home run (#25) just minutes later. Michael Morse later hit a home run, his 18th. Final score: Nats 5, Phillies 1.
Even if the Reds had won last night, the Nats would still have claimed top-seed honors since they were 5-2 against the Reds this year. But as the Washington Post notes, having the best record in the regular baseball season has very little to do with whether a team goes all the way to winning the World Series. It's a whole new season just getting started from scratch.
Kudos to Adam LaRoche for hitting his 33rd home run in the Nats 4-2 win on Tuesday night, thus reaching the 100-RBI plateau. He's just the third National player to have done so.
Congratulations to Miguel Cabrera for making baseball history by winning the Triple Crown, the first time anyone has done so since Carl Yastrzesmski in 1967. Meanwhile, the Yankees' Curtis Granderson hit two home runs to close to within one of Cabrera's total. (Yikes.) Miguel ended the season with a .330 average, 44 home runs, and 139 RBIs. See MLB.com.
Otherwise, the teams expected to win the division titles and wild card slots pretty much did so. The Yankees crushed the Red Sox again, and earn highest-seed postseason honors on the American League side, with a record of 95-67. They will face the winning wild card team on Sunday. That could be either the Orioles, who lost to the Rays (thanks mainly to three home runs hit by Evan Longoria), or the Rangers. The wild card teams will face each other in Arlington, Texas on Friday. The Oakland Athletics will host the Detroit Tigers in that divisional series beginning on Saturday.
In the National League, the Braves will host the Cardinals in the NL wild card game on Friday. The winner of that game will host the Nationals, beginning on Sunday. The Cincinnati Reds will host the San Francisco Giants on Saturday night. I have updated the Postseason scores page with the correct matchups, but I may yet modify the way the wild card teams are displayed. It's complicated.