Angels Wrap Up American League West

Monday, September 24th 2007, 7:41 am
By: News On 6

The Los Angeles Angels and Cleveland Indians can rest their stars, set their rotations and put up the playoff bunting.

After clinching division titles Sunday, they only had a few questions left about the postseason. As in: Who, when and where do we play?

Right after the Indians beat Oakland 6-2 to win the AL Central, ace C.C. Sabathia and his teammates headed out toward center field at Jacobs Field. There they watched as a 2007 championship banner was hoisted atop the center-field scoreboard.

``Goosebumps,'' Sabathia said. ``It was so good to do it at home. I had no doubt that we would win it.''

Hours later, a sellout crowd waving rally monkeys watched the Angels win their third AL West title in four years with a 7-4 victory over Seattle.

The Angels have one goal remaining _ earning home-field advantage throughout the AL playoffs by finishing with the league's best record. They're currently bunched near the top with the Indians, Boston and the New York Yankees.

That race could go down to the final game Sunday, and it likely will determine the playoff pairings.

``We hope to get it, but it's more important for us to have our team as a whole ready to go,'' Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. ``We're going to try to win every game out there, but not at the expense of a having a fractured team that isn't where it needs to be. We have a huge challenge ahead of us.''

Already assured at least a wild-card spot, Boston's AL East lead was cut to 1 1/2 games by the Yankees.

Boston lost 5-4 at Tampa Bay while the Yankees beat Toronto 7-5. The Yankees' magic number for clinching the wild-card spot is two over the defending AL champion Detroit Tigers.

The final week of the regular season will give Red Sox left fielder Manny Ramirez more time to recover. He missed his 24th straight game because of a strained muscle on his left side and manager Terry Francona isn't sure when the slugger will return.

``I don't know,'' Francona said. ``He said he had a better day yesterday, which is good. I'd rather hear him say that than say it's getting worse. He seems real upbeat, but he's not ready to play. Just keep plugging away.''

In other AL games, Detroit defeated Kansas City 7-2, Minnesota beat Chicago 7-1 and Texas topped Baltimore 3-0.

Indians 6, Athletics 2

Rafael Betancourt closed out the clincher, jumping into the arms of catcher Victor Martinez after striking out Mark Ellis to end it.

A year after finishing in fourth place and 18 games behind Detroit, the Indians returned to the postseason for the first time since 2001. A crowd of 40,250 got an early start on the celebration as Cleveland took an early 6-0 lead.

Jake Westbrook (6-9) struck out a career-high nine and Grady Sizemore had four hits. Betancourt got his second save.

Dallas Braden (1-8) took the loss for an Oakland team that reached the AL championship series last October.

Angels 7, Mariners 4

A sellout crowd watched John Lackey, Francisco Rodriguez and the Angels win the West in their final home game of the regular season.

Absent from the playoffs last year, the Angels relied on a familiar formula. In 2002, Lackey won Game 7 of the World Series and Rodriguez was their ace setup man.

Macier Izturis and Casey Kotchman homered in the second inning and that was enough for Lackey (18-9). Rodriguez pitched the ninth for his 38th save in 43 chances.

Jeff Weaver (7-13) took the loss.

Devil Rays 5, Red Sox 4

Last-place Tampa Bay ended a five-game losing streak, handing knuckleballer Tim Wakefield his first defeat in 10 career decisions at Tropicana Field.

David Ortiz and Coco Crisp hit RBI singles and J.D. Drew walked with the bases loaded as Boston closed to 4-3. But the Red Sox never took the lead against Edwin Jackson (5-15) or Al Reyes, who got his 25th save.

Delmon Young hit a two-run homer off Wakefield (16-12), who fell to 19-3 overall against the Devil Rays.

Yankees 7, Blue Jays 5

At Yankee Stadium, Mike Mussina earned his 250th victory and rookie Joba Chamberlain got his first career save on his 22nd birthday.

New York won for the 14th time in 17 games. The Yankees reached 90 wins for the seventh straight year _ that's the third-longest streak in major league history behind the 1947-58 Yankees and 1904-12 Chicago Cubs, the Elias Sports Bureau said.

Mussina (11-10) won his third consecutive start since rejoining the Yankees' rotation. Dustin McGowan (11-10) couldn't hold Toronto's early 3-0 lead.

Tigers 7, Royals 2

At Detroit, Marcus Thames homered twice and Justin Verlander beat Kansas City.

Moments after the victory, the Tigers were eliminated from the Central race when Cleveland won.

Verlander (18-6) has 35 wins in his first two full years, the most by a Tigers pitcher since Frank Lary also had 35 from 1955-56. Jorge De La Rosa (8-12) took the loss.

Twins 7, White Sox 1

Torii Hunter scored twice in what might have been his final home game for Minnesota. The popular All-Star center fielder is eligible for free agency after the season. Against Chicago, he singled in the middle of a three-run sixth inning against Gavin Floyd (1-5).

Kevin Slowey (4-0) struck out a career-high nine.

Rangers 3, Orioles 0

At Texas, Kevin Millwood pitched seven sharp innings for another win over Baltimore.

Millwood (10-13) is 5-0 against the Orioles during his two years with the Rangers. C.J. Wilson closed for his 12th save.

Jon Leicester (2-3) gave up seven hits in his first complete game in the majors.