Angels top A's, set to face Seattle for AL West crown

The Associated Press

ANAHEIM, Calif. After wasting an 11-game lead in the AL West, the California Angels rebounded to force a one-game playoff for the division title by beating the Oakland Athletics 8-2 yesterday.

The Seattle Mariners, who held a two-game lead on Saturday morning, dropped into a first-place tie by losing to the Texas Rangers 9-3.

California and Seattle, both 78-66, will meet today at 1:30 p.m. PST at the Kingdome in just the eighth regular-season playoff in baseball history, the first since 1980. Mark Langston (15-6) is scheduled to pitch for the Angels against Randy Johnson (17-2). The winner will play the New York Yankees in the playoffs beginning tomorrow night.

Chuck Finley (15-12), who beat Seattle on Wednesday to cut California's deficit to two games, allowed four hits in 7 1-3 innings and struck out nine as the Angels won their fifth straight.

Mel Stottlemyre (14-7) was raked for six runs and 10 hits in four-plus innings.

The Angels led the division by 11 games as late as Aug. 9, but then lost 24 of 30 as Seattle 13 games back on Aug. 5 caught them on Sept. 20, then went ahead.

The one-game showdown will be the first for the Angels in their 35-year history. They'll be trying to return to the playoffs for the first time since 1986, when they came within one pitch of making it to the World Series, instead losing the playoffs to Boston.

Rangers 9, Mariners 3

ARLINGTON, Texas The Seattle Mariners blew their second chance in as many days to win the AL West, losing 9-3 yesterday to the Texas Rangers.

Seattle, which is trying for the first division title in its 19-year history, eliminated Texas on Thursday and clinched a tie for the division title on Friday. But the Mariners lost 9-2 Saturday while the Angels beat the A's 9-3 to keep Seattle's magic number at 1.

Things started poorly for the Mariners yesterday as starter Tim Belcher (10-12) allowed a three-run home run by Mickey Tettleton in the first inning.

The Rangers scored two more in the seventh on a sacrifice fly by Frye and a bloop single by Will Clark, who went 2-for-5 to finish the season at .302.

Kenny Rogers (17-7) started on three days' rest and allowed three runs on five hits, two walks and three strikeouts in six innings. Matt Whiteside worked the final three innings.

Edgar Martinez and Buhner wrapped up impressive personal feats.

Martinez went 2-for-4 to raise his average to a career-high .354, easily sealing his second batting title in the last four years.

Buhner has 121 RBIs and 122 hits, giving him the best RBI-to-hits ratio in baseball history. His .9918 is far better than the previous best of .9592 by Jim Gentile in 1961.

Those stats will be updated after Monday's playoff game, which counts as a regular season game.

Yankees 6, Blue Jays 1

TORONTO Don Mattingly made sure he'd finally make it to the playoffs, hitting a home run that helped New York clinch the AL wild-card spot and their first postseason appearance since 1981.

Sterling Hitchcock (11-10) allowed one run and five hits in 5 1-3 innings, leading the Yankees to a sweep and their 12th straight win over the Blue Jays.

Pat Hentgen (10-14) gave up five runs and seven hits in five innings as Toronto lost its fifth straight.

Indians 17, Royals 7

CLEVELAND Cleveland closed its best season in 41 years by reaching 100 victories for only the second time in franchise history. The 17 runs were Cleveland's most since a 20-6 win at Oakland on May 4, 1991.

The Indians scored 11 runs on 10 singles in the first two innings. Eddie Murray drove in two runs with a bases-loaded single in the first, and Sandy Alomar singled home two more in the second. Alomar matched his career high with four hits.

Charles Nagy (16-6) allowed four runs and nine hits in five innings. Tom Gordon (12-12) was pounded for 10 runs off nine hits in one inning-plus.

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