Jake Smolinski

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Rangers clinch the AL West with 3-0 win over Athletics

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The Rangers became the first American League team to clinch a postseason berth after a 3-0 win over the Athletics on Friday night.

If the A’s had their way, tonight would have gone the way of the league’s 24th perfect game. For six innings, Kendall Graveman Oakland starter Kendall Graveman failed to allow a single baserunner. That dream was quashed in the seventh when Rangers’ leadoff batter Carlos Gomez ran a base hit up the middle. Carlos Beltran scored the Rangers’ first run on a productive out later in the inning, while Adrian Beltre smashed his 31st homer of the year, a two-run shot that gave Texas enough of a cushion to clinch the division.

Opposite Graveman, left-hander Cole Hamels took the hill for the Rangers. While FanGraphs values Hamels’ 2016 season at just 2.6 Wins Above Replacement, far below the 4.2 fWAR he accumulated in 2015, the lefty has been the strongest asset in the Rangers’ rotation this season. In the second half, he knocked his BB/9 and HR/9 down a few pegs and raised his 8.76 K/9 rate to a 9.40 mark.

Hamels tossed seven scoreless frames against the A’s, walking two and striking out six in his 15th win of the year. Behind his fifth shutout performance of the year, the bullpen got into a little trouble in the ninth inning when right-hander Sam Dyson put runners on first and second. Yonder Alonso subbed in for Jake Smolinski, working a 2-1 count before hitting into a game-ending force out.

With the win, the Rangers have clinched their sixth division title since 1996. It’s still possible that Texas will see some AL West competition in the ALDS, as the Astros and Mariners sit 2.5 and 2.0 games back of a wild card berth, respectively.

Right now, however, it’s time to celebrate.