OAKLAND -- Rangers center fielder Josh Hamilton charged in and was under the fly ball. But he said he didn't "break down softly" and get himself in a position to make the catch."I continued to run at the same speed and missed it," Hamilton said. "It ticked off the tip of my glove. No excuses. ... I hate that it happened. But it happened." Yes it did, and the Rangers' hopes for a third straight division title slipped away for good on Wednesday afternoon at the Oakland Coliseum. The Rangers had a 5-1 lead going into the bottom of the fourth, but the Athletics scored six times that inning and pulled away to a 12-5 victory to claim the American League West title. The Rangers will now host the AL Wild Card game on Friday against the Orioles. "We have to shake it off," outfielder David Murphy said. "It's not going to be an easy one to shake off, but we don't have the luxury of hanging our heads and feeling sorry for ourselves. We put ourselves in this position." The Rangers did so not only by getting swept by the Athletics this week but also by losing nine of their last 13 games. "That doesn't have anything to do with anything anymore," second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "It's down to one game or go home. Today was to win the division. Now it's win or go home. It's a different animal." "There's not one guy in this clubhouse who hasn't handled adversity before," starter Ryan Dempster said. "Now instead of having to win 11 games, we have to win 12." Wednesday marked the only day that the Athletics have had sole possession of first place in the AL West. They were five games out on Sept. 24. The Rangers haven't been out of first place since April 8. "I'm not frustrated, I'm just disappointed," manager Ron Washington said. "We played all year to win a division and we didn't get it done. Especially the way it happened, it's disappointing. We put our backs to the wall and we have to win one game. We're capable of winning one game. If we can do that, you never know what will happen." In a half-hearted attempt to find a bright side, Hamilton suggested the loss might be a blessing in disguise. "The last two years we won the division and came up short," Hamilton said. "Maybe this time we'll come in like the Cardinals last year [as the Wild Card] and get it done." The Rangers really wanted to win the division, and they seemed headed in that direction after scoring five runs in the third inning against rookie starter A.J. Griffin. That gave Texas a 5-1 lead, which almost became 7-1 in the fourth when Nelson Cruz nearly hit a two-out, two-run home run. The well-struck ball hit the top of the left-field wall and Cruz had to settle for a double that put runners on second and third. Michael Young lined out to first to end the inning. "I thought we would be able to sustain some things, but that fourth inning, things just got away from us," Washington said. "We got thoroughly beaten by a team that has been really hot and stayed hot. They just beat us." Dempster, after giving up a one-out run-scoring double to Brandon Moss in the first, had retired eight straight hitters before walking Moss to lead off the fourth. "Leading a game, 5-1, you don't want to do that," Dempster said. "Make them earn it -- if he hits one over the wall, he hits one over the wall." Then the dam broke. Josh Reddick doubled to left-center to score one run. Singles by Josh Donaldson and Seth Smith scored Reddick and gave the Athletics runners on first and second. Derek Holland came in to replace Dempster. "They made some adjustments," Dempster said. "I made a bad pitch to Reddick and they stayed on some pitches. I could have done a better job executing my pitches." Holland got Derek Norris to ground out, moving runners to second and third, and Cliff Pennington popped out. That gave Holland a chance to get out of the inning, but Coco Crisp tied the game with a double down the right-field line.
After Stephen Drew walked, Yoenis Céspedes hit a high pop to shallow center. That was the one Hamilton missed. Two runs scored on the play and the Athletics had a 7-5 lead."He just missed it," Washington said. "The sun didn't have anything to do with it. He just missed it. I wish he hadn't, but he did." Holland got out of that inning but gave up an RBI single to Norris in the fifth. Oakland added four more in the eighth. The Rangers, on the other hand, couldn't do anything against the A's bullpen after knocking out Griffin in the third. Five Oakland relievers combined for 6 1/3 scoreless innings.
The Rangers failed to score in 12 1/3 innings against the Oakland bullpen during the three-game series."The A's played really well, it's as simple as that," Young said. "We wanted to keep scoring and had some opportunities. But they were the ones that found a way to keep scoring and that was the story today."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.