OAKLAND -- The end came with runners at first and second on a high chopper to Rougned Odor. The Rangers' second baseman charged it and casually flipped the baseball to shortstop Elvis Andrus for the force.With that final play, the Rangers officially returned to the top of the American League
OAKLAND -- The end came with runners at first and second on a high chopper to Rougned Odor. The Rangers' second baseman charged it and casually flipped the baseball to shortstop Elvis Andrus for the force.
With that final play, the Rangers officially returned to the top of the American League West for the second straight year and seventh time in club history. They did so with a 3-0 victory over the Athletics at the Coliseum, and now they wait to see who their opponent will be in the AL Division Series.
"It still means a lot," said Andrus, who was celebrating his fourth division title. "Every year is great, and this year was really sweet. Everybody did their job. Our DNA is never ever quit, and we never did."
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The Rangers won the AL West title last year before being eliminated in the ALDS against the Blue Jays. They also won in 1996, 1998-99 and 2010-11.
"There are so many storylines about this team that are incredible," manager Jeff Banister said. "It's a feeling of elation, and I couldn't be more proud of them. I don't know if I can exhale at all. It's been a long road."
Banister is the third manager since 1994 to win division titles in his first two seasons with a club. The others were Bob Brenly with the D-backs in 2001-02 and Ron Gardenhire with the Twins in 2002-04.
"An offseason that, obviously how it ended last year, gut punch, I couldn't be more proud of our guys," Banister said. "They've stayed focused all year long."
The Rangers had a relatively tame celebration on the field after the last out, nothing more vociferous than one of their eight walk-off wins during the season. The celebration really took off in the clubhouse.
It started with ginger ale out of respect for Matt Bush and Jeremy Jeffress, two of their teammates who deal with alcohol afflictions. It was similar to what they did in 2010-11 with Josh Hamilton.
Then the champagne corks started popping.
"It's unbelievable to be a part of this," outfielder Ian Desmond said. "We set out on a mission in Spring Training and everybody bought into it. This is just a part of it, the first step."
That's what the Rangers emphasized as champagne sprayed through the cramped visitors' clubhouse at the Coliseum.
"It never gets old, but this is the first step toward our goal," third baseman Adrián Beltré said. "We know we have a good enough team to win the World Series, and that's our goal."
Beltre had the big hit on Friday with a two-run home run. Cole Hamels pitched seven scoreless innings with Bush and closer Sam Dyson finishing it out.
"It's fun," Hamels said. "You know what's at stake and it's always great to be part of it, especially to be out on the mound doing your part. We really have a big goal, and that's to win the World Series. This is just one stage; we have three more to go."
Among those in the middle of the celebration was catcher Jonathan Lucroy. He spent the first four months of the season with the Brewers, who are in fourth place in the National League Central. But he was traded to the Rangers on Aug. 1 and is now going back to the postseason for the first time since 2011.
"It's a great feeling," Lucroy said. "I'm very fortunate to be here. It's great to be a part of this. I never thought in Spring Training I'd be a part of this at the end of September. I'm blessed to be here."
Prince Fielder was also with the Brewers in 2011 and with the Rangers when they celebrated last year. He was in the middle of the celebration on Friday night even though he suffered a neck injury this summer and had to announce his playing days were over.
He was still able to celebrate with gusto with his teammates.
"When they do something, I'm happy for them," Fielder said. "Amazing job. We have a little more work to do, but it's a great accomplishment. Let's celebrate and get back to work."
T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.