OAKLAND -- The Oakland A's are returning to the playoffs as American League West champions.
The A's entered Sunday needing a win or a Texas Rangers loss to clinch the division for the second consecutive year. It became official when the Rangers lost to the Kansas City Royals, 4-0, on a walk-off grand slam in the 10th inning.
Justin Maxwell's grand slam coincided with the top of the third inning in Oakland, where pockets of fans broke into scattered applause and cheers as word spread of that outcome.
The Coliseum's out-of-town scoreboard, though, maintained a 0-0 score in Kansas City until the end of the inning. The video monitors then showed Maxwell's homer while the crowd erupted. Reaction amongst the A's was more muted, with a few fist pumps and handshakes exchanged in the dugout.
The A's clinched their 16th A.L. West title and 17th postseason appearance in the Oakland era. They did so in game 156, the earliest they've clinched a division title since doing so in 154 games in 1990.
It was only three weeks before the A's had trailed Texas by three games, with another taut September race looking all but certain. But while the A's surged -- beginning today with a 17-5 record since Aug. 30 -- the Rangers faltered, posting a 6-15 record over that same span.
The A's currently lead the Minnesota Twins, 8-4, in the fourth inning in Oakland.
-- Matt Kawahara