ARLINGTON, Texas — Cole Hamels and the Texas Rangers finally clinched the AL West title on the last day of the regular season.
Hamels pitched a three-hitter, Adrian Beltre hit a go-ahead homer and the Rangers beat the Angels 9-2 Sunday, eliminating Los Angeles from playoff contention.
A year after their 95 losses were the most in the American League, two months after they were still eight games out of first place and three days after ensuring themselves a
Texas plays its first AL division series game since 2011 on Thursday at Toronto or Kansas City.
Moments after the final out, AL West championship banners already were flying at the ballpark. The Rangers will go there under first-year manager Jeff Banister, whose team lost ace Yu Darvish to Tommy John surgery before the season started.
The Angels needed to win their finale and have Houston lose in Arizona to force a tiebreaker game for the AL’s second wild card. The Astros, who were playing in Arizona, clinched that wild card when the Angels lost.
The Rangers clinched no worse than a wild card with their 5-3 win in the opener of the four-game series Thursday night before the Angels, the 2014 division champs, won the next two games with ninth-inning rallies.
Los Angeles won 2-1 on Friday and rallied for an 11-10 victory Saturday to stay in the race. Houston won both of those nights.
Texas has won its last 10 games started by Hamels, the ace left-hander they acquired from Philadelphia at the end of July when he was coming off a no-hitter. Hamels won seven of those games — the 2008 World Series MVP is 7-1 with Texas and 13-8 overall this season.
The Rangers were eight games out of first place after an 11-inning loss to San Francisco on Aug. 1, when Hamels left with a three-run lead in the eighth inning of his Rangers debut.
At that time, many viewed the acquisition of Hamels, who is signed through 2018 with a club option for 2019, as a move for future seasons. Instead, the Rangers had him on the mound in the 162nd game of the season with a division title, and the seventh playoff berth in team history, in reach.
After Albert Pujols hit his 40th homer in the first to give the Angels a 2-0 lead, following Mike Trout’s double, Hamels allowed only one more hit. That was a one-out double in the second by Shane Victorino.
Texas went ahead to stay in the fifth on Beltre’s 18th homer, which landed just beyond the wall in right field for a 3-2 lead against Garrett Richards (15-12). That came after Shin-Soo Choo, who has reached base in 53 of the last 55 games, had an infield single.
Beltre added an infield RBI single as the Rangers added six runs in the seventh, a 37-minute half-inning when Los Angeles used five pitchers.
Beltre has 33 RBIs in his last 23 games, and an MLB-high 53 RBIs in 48 games since Aug. 15. He has 83 RBIs overall.
Richards, starting on three days’ rest for the first time in his career, walked the first two batters he faced before Fielder went the opposite way, pushing a grounder through the left side of the infield for an RBI single.
Rangers: A day off Monday before working out at home Tuesday and then
RANGERS IN POSTSEASON
After winning AL West titles in 1996, 1998 and 1999, the Rangers lost each time in the division series to the New York Yankees. The Rangers won their other division titles in 2010 and 2011 and both times went to the World Series. Texas lost the first one-and-done AL wild-card game at home in 2012, then missed the playoffs the following season after losing a wild card tiebreaker.
Stephen Hawkins, The Associated Press