Rangers blank A's to book first AL playoff berth

Sat Sep 24, 2016 2:20am EDT
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(Reuters) - The Texas Rangers became the first American League team to clinch a playoff spot when they clinched the AL West Division with a 3-0 victory over the Oakland Athletics on Friday.

Starter Cole Hamels breezed through seven scoreless innings while Carlos Beltran and Adrian Beltre each homered to allow the Rangers to celebrate a post-season berth with a shutout.

The victory secured a second consecutive division title for Texas (91-63), who lost in the American League Division Series a year ago, and fourth in the last seven years.

"It's just the first step," Beltre said from a champagne-soaked clubhouse.

"We have a good enough team to win the World Series. That's our goal. We're going to celebrate today but we know this is not just what we accomplished. We want to accomplish a lot more things."

The Rangers endured the emotional retirement of Prince Fielder to a career-ending neck injury last month and also released former MVP Josh Hamilton, but a strong pitching rotation more than makes up for their lack of firepower.

Hamels (15-5) is one of those key weapons, along with Yu Darvish and Colby Lewis, and the left-hander warmed up for the post-season by allowing six hits, striking out seven and walking two as he won for the first time since Aug. 25.

"You're always kind of trying to work towards something, you're always trying to strive to be better. It's just something where you want to be at your best in the big moments, and I know the big moments are coming," Hamels said.

(Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by John O'Brien)

Sep 23, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA;  Texas Rangers starting pitcher Cole Hamels (35) delivers a pitch against the Oakland Athletics during the first inning at Oakland Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports