orangeleader.com (Orange, Texas)

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October 4, 2012

A's win AL West, Yanks take AL East, pairings set

Coco Crisp settled under the final fly ball, and the Oakland Athletics started charging onto the field like a bunch of Little Leaguers chasing an ice cream truck after a big win.

Within seconds, the infield at the Coliseum was a sea of green and gold. These young A's had done it, sweeping Texas to win a most improbable AL West title on the last day of the regular season.

A few hours later, baseball's playoff pairings were set. All of that fretting over potential tiebreakers, cross-country trips and a chaotic postseason schedule was for naught.

"Now the real season starts," New York Yankees star Derek Jeter said Wednesday night.

The playoffs begin Friday with a pair of winner-take-all wild-card matchups. The defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals visit Chipper Jones and the Atlanta Braves in the NL, then Baltimore plays at Texas.

Plus, consider this: After so much talk about the new, expanded postseason format that added two teams, the AL came out exactly how it would've last year. The Rangers and Orioles finished with the same record, so they're playing one game to decide it.

The Athletics' 12-5 win, helped when All-Star center fielder Josh Hamilton dropped a fly, brought them a curious reward: a trip to Detroit to face Triple Crown slugger Miguel Cabrera, reigning AL MVP and Cy Young winner Justin Verlander and the Tigers in Game 1 of the division series.

"They have a very powerful lineup that can certainly score some runs. They also have great starting pitching. We will have our work cut out for us," Oakland manager Bob Melvin said.

No matter, it was time for celebrating. The A's took a victory lap around their ballpark, slapping hands with their fans and spraying them with bubbly.

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