A’s beat Rangers to clinch berth, eliminate Angels, Rays from contention

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The A’s are going back to the playoffs for the first time since 2006.

Behind rookie Jarrod Parker, Oakland beat Texas 4-3 on Monday to clinch at least a wild card berth and eliminate the Angels and Rays from the mix for postseason spots.

With Detroit also winning tonight, it’s now set that the A’s, Orioles, Rangers, Tigers and Yankees will be the five teams representing the AL in the postseason. However, only the Tigers have clinched their division. The A’s could still win the AL West and perhaps finish with the league’s best record if they sweep the Rangers.

The  Oakland bullpen, so solid all season, came up big again tonight, as Sean Doolittle, Ryan Cook and Grant Balfour combined to pitch three hitless innings in relief of Parker. Balfour struck out all three batters he faced in the ninth to earn his 23rd save.

Oakland’s offensive star was Coco Crisp, who went 2-for-4 with an RBI double and two runs scored. The Rangers got homers from both Michael Young and Mike Napoli, but it wasn’t enough in a game in which they combined to strike out 11 times.

Mike Trout has a torn thumb ligament, could require surgery

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Yesterday Mike Trout left the Marlins-Angels game after hurting his thumb while sliding head first into second base. After the game the Angels talked about it as if it were just a sprain. Trout had an MRI today, however, and the diagnosis is far worse: he has a torn thumb ligament.

While a treatment option has not yet been chosen, surgery is a possibility. A certainty is that he’ll miss, at the very least, several weeks of play. He has been placed on the disabled list for the first time in his career.

Trout, the reigning AL MVP and, without question, the best player in baseball, is batting .337/.461/.742 with 16 home runs, 36 RBI, 36 runs scored, and 10 stolen bases in 206 plate appearances this season. Even with the one of the weaker supporting casts in baseball, Trout had the Angels near .500 and in at least arguable contention in the AL West.

Without him, they are likely sunk. Without him, baseball is worse off.

Basebrawl! Harper, Strickland punch away, Nats-Giants fight

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SAN FRANCISCO — Nationals slugger Bryce Harper and San Francisco reliever Hunter Strickland both landed punches to the head during a wild brawl that erupted Monday after a hit by pitch.

Harper was hit in the right hip by Strickland’s 98 mph fastball in the eighth inning with Washington ahead 2-0.

Harper pointed the bat toward Strickland, charged the mound and fired his batting helmet wide of the pitcher. They started to swing away and they each connected as the benches and bullpens emptied.

At least two Giants players forcefully dragged Strickland from the middle of the brawl all the way into the dugout. Harper and Strickland were both ejected.

In the 2014 NL Division Series, Harper hit two home runs off Strickland. After the star’s second shot, in Game 4, he stared at Strickland as he rounded the bases.