Rangers repeat as American League West champs

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Three teams clinch their divisions in the very same night? Now this is fun.

Thanks to a win over the Mariners and a little help from the Athletics, the Rangers are American League West champions for the second straight season. They defeated the Mariners 5-3 earlier in the evening, but the ginger ale didn’t flow until the Athletics beat the second-place Angels 3-1 nearly two hours later.

Josh Hamilton and Adrian Beltre both went deep in the victory while Craig Gentry added an inside-the-park home run. Hamilton now has 25 home runs on the season, including six in his last 10 games. Look out, American League. Matt Harrison made his pitch for a spot in the playoff rotation by giving up three runs over six innings. The southpaw has allowed three runs or less in each of his last four starts.

One of the big storylines entering the season was whether the Rangers would be able to survive without Cliff Lee, but I think that question is far more relevant now than it was during the regular season. C.J. Wilson has taken a huge step forward in his contract year while Derek Holland has enjoyed a fantastic second half, but it gets a little dicey from there. Then again, the other contenders in the American League don’t have a lot of quality depth in their starting rotations either.

Anyway, with the American League West out of the way, now all six divisions have been decided. All eyes on the Wild Card.

Struggling Francisco Rodriguez’s job seems to be secure

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Tigers closer Francisco Rodriguez continued to struggle on Thursday, allowing a run in a 2-1 loss to the Mariners. It’s the sixth time in nine appearances that the right-handed veteran has allowed a run, bumping his ERA up to 6.23. He’s blown two saves and has two losses on the year.

Despite that, it doesn’t sound like Rodriguez’s job as the Tigers’ closer is in any jeopardy, Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press reports. When asked how much of a leash Rodriguez has, manager Brad Ausmus said, “I’ll let you know.” Ausmus continued, “I think people have short memories. This guy did a pretty good job for us last year. Early on, people were worried because the velocity was down. Well, the velocity is back.”

“But at some point,” Ausmus said, “he does have to pitch the way he pitched last year, because he did an outstanding job for us last year and in a city that has been looking for a closer that was consistent for a long time, he was that.”

Rodriguez, 35, doesn’t have the stuff he once did. And the Tigers do appear to have someone who would be a better option in high-leverage situations. Lefty Justin Wilson has thrown 9 2/3 scoreless, hitless innings so far this season with 15 strikeouts and three walks. But for now, it sounds like Rodriguez will be free to work through his issues.

The Nationals are sad to be leaving Coors Field

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Don’t look now, but the Nationals have the best record in baseball at 16-6. They’re coming off a 10-game road trip in which they went 9-1, including sweeps of the Braves and Mets and a 3-1 series against the Rockies at Coors Field. During that series with the Rockies, the Nationals scored 46 runs, which is nearly as many as the Royals (54) have scored all season long. The Nats scored double-digits in all three wins.

The first game at Coors, an 8-4 loss, saw a three-hit game from Anthony Rendon and a homer from Ryan Zimmerman.

The second game featured Trea Turner hitting for the cycle and driving in seven runs. Daniel Murphy had three hits and five RBI.

The third game saw Turner finish a triple short of the cycle. Bryce Harper had four hits. Zimmerman had three hits including a homer. Murphy homered, too.

The fourth game featured homers from Adam Eaton, Harper, and Murphy. Seven members of the lineup had multiple hits and six had multiple RBI including pitcher Gio Gonzalez.

The series helped the Nationals bring their run differential to +34, the best in the National League. The Yankees are the only team with a better differential at +35.

Indeed, the Nationals are sad to be leaving Coors Field. They return home to open up a three-game set with the ailing Mets on Friday night.