Author: Bill Baer

Cole Hamels
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Rangers clinch the AL West behind Cole Hamels’ complete game


Cole Hamels delivered a sterling performance to pitch the Rangers past the Angels to clinch the AL West on the final day of the regular season. The lefty appeared to be shaky early, serving up a two-run home run to Albert Pujols in the first inning, but he settled down from there to pitch a complete game. On the afternoon, he yielded just the two runs on three hits and two walks with eight strikeouts in nine innings.

The Rangers acquired Hamels from the Phillies in a trade at the deadline along with reliever Jake Diekman, sending Matt Harrison and five minor leaguers to Philadelphia.

Third baseman Adrian Beltre put the Rangers on top 3-2 with a two-run homer of his own in the fifth inning. The Rangers would tack on six runs in the seventh to ensure the win.

It’s the Rangers’ first division title since 2011. That year, they went 96-66 and lost the World Series in seven games to the Cardinals. They finish at 88-74 this season.

The Angels, with the loss, are eliminated from contention for the second AL Wild Card. They finish with an 85-77 record. The Astros have officially clinched a playoff berth with the Angels’ loss as well.

Astros stave off AL West elimination, beat the Diamondbacks

Colby Rasmus, Gary Pettis
AP Photo

Facing an elimination number of one, the Astros staved off elimination in the AL West by beating the Diamondbacks on Friday night by a 6-1 margin. The Rangers suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Angels on Saturday afternoon, which temporarily put the Astros’ fate in their own hands.

Colby Rasmus hit a pair of solo homers and Jose Altuve added a solo shot of his own. Starter Collin McHugh tossed seven innings of one-run ball, limiting the Diamondbacks to six hits and a walk with six strikeouts. Reliever Will Harris allowed a solo home run to Paul Goldschmidt in the eighth, but Luke Gregerson closed out the game with a scoreless ninth.

The Astros trail the Rangers by one game in the AL West and lead the Angels by one game for the second AL Wild Card slot. The Rangers can clinch the AL West on Sunday afternoon with a win or an Astros loss. The Astros can clinch the second AL Wild Card on Sunday afternoon with a win or an Angels loss.

The Yankees lost both ends of Saturday’s doubleheader against the Orioles and lead the Astros by only one game for the first AL Wild Card slot.

If the Astros win and the Rangers lose on Sunday, they will play an AL West tiebreaker in Texas. The winner will win the second AL Wild Card if the Yankees win on Sunday, or the first AL Wild Card if the Yankees lose on Sunday.

If the Astros lose and the Angels win on Sunday, the two teams will be tied for the second AL Wild Card. They would play a tiebreaker in Houston, and the winner would play the Yankees in New York in the Wild Card game.

Video: Kelby Tomlinson slides in for an inside-the-park home run

Kelby Tomlinson
AP Photo

Giants second baseman Kelby Tomlinson looked more like Ladainian Tomlinson the way he was running during Saturday afternoon’s game against the Rockies. In the first inning with one out against starter Chris Rusin, Tomlinson hit a fly ball into the right-center field gap at AT&T Park, a great place to go if you’re in the mood for an inside-the-park home run.

Neither Carlos Gonzalez nor Chris Dickerson could corral the ball before it rolled all the way to the 421-foot marker at the fence. Tomlinson motored around the bases, but Gonzalez made a strong throw into cut-off man D.J. LeMahieu, and LeMahieu made a great throw in to catcher Tom Murphy, but Tomlinson slid in safely just ahead of the tag.

It was an exciting play and the hit proved important as the Giants eked out a 3-2 win against the Rockies.

Santiago Casilla’s 2016 option vests for $6.5 million

Santiago Casilla
AP Photo
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Giants closer Santiago Casilla got the final two outs of Saturday’s 3-2 win against the Rockies, earning his 38th save. More importantly for him, however, was that it was his 55th game finished of the season. As Alex Pavlovic of CSN Bay Area notes, Casilla’s 2016 option worth $6.5 million vested once the final out was recorded.

The Giants won’t complain, as Casilla has had a terrific year. The 35-year-old is now 38-for-44 in save situations with a 2.79 ERA and a 62/23 K/BB ratio in 58 innings.

Video: Max Scherzer gets Curtis Granderson to complete his no-hitter

Max Scherzer
AP Photo

Nationals starter Max Scherzer would have preferred to strike out Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson to polish off his second no-hitter of the season, but instead he induced a weak pop-up. He had struck out the previous nine batters he had faced and finished with 17 punch-outs.

Scherzer finished with a 104 game score. By this measure, it’s the best pitching performance since Kerry Wood struck out 20 in a complete game one-hitter against the Astros in 1998. Scherzer and Wood’s performances are the only game scores of 104 or better achieved without pitching extra innings.