Braves-Cardinals, Rangers-Orioles jump-start baseball's new-look postseason.
UNDATED (AP) — Baseball's postseason will start Friday with a pair of one-game playoff series among the four wild card teams.
St. Louis will send out 16-game winner Kyle Lohse (lohsh) against Kris Medlen and the Atlanta Braves Friday evening at Turner Field. The Braves have won the last 23 games in which Medlen has started. He is 16-1 this year.
Following that game, Yu Darvish will start the Texas Rangers' first playoff game, a one-game wild-card playoff against Baltimore in Arlington. The 26-year-old Darvish is 16-9 with a 3.90 ERA in 29 starts. The 6-foot-5 right-hander has 221 strikeouts to just 89 walks and was an All-Star.
The Washington Nationals await the Atlanta-St. Louis winner on Sunday. NL Central winner Cincinnati opens Saturday night against the Giants in San Francisco. Johnny Cueto (KWAY'-toh) goes for the Reds against 16-game winner Matt Cain of the Giants.
The AL East champion New York Yankees play the Texas-Baltimore winner on the road Sunday. AL Central winner Detroit sends out 17-game winner Justin Verlander when they host AL West champ Oakland on Saturday evening.
MLB-END OF REGULAR SEASON
Low-budget Athletics shock Rangers, win AL West...Yanks clinch AL East
UNDATED (AP) — The Oakland A's were 13 games out of first place on June 30th. Today, they are American League West champions for the first time since 2006.
Needing a three-game sweep over Texas to have a shot at the West title, the A's did just that. Oakland, with one of the lowest payrolls in baseball, rallied from a 5-1 deficit and beat the Texas Rangers 12-5 on a sun-splashed afternoon at an electric Oakland Coliseum.
The sun was an enemy to Rangers center fielder Josh Hamilton in the fourth inning. He dropped a two-out fly ball by Yoenis Cespedes (yoh-EHN'-ehs SEHS'-peh-dehs) allowing two runs to score and giving Oakland a 7-5 lead. Texas squandered a five-game division lead in the final nine days.
— It took until the 162nd game, but the New York Yankees captured the American League East by routing Boston 14-2. The Yanks did it with the long ball. They ripped Daisuke Matsuzaka (DYS'-kay maht-soo-ZAH'-kah) for five runs in less than three innings. Curtis Granderson hit a three-run home run in the second and a solo shot in the seventh to give him 43 homers. Robinson Cano (kuh-NOH') connected for a pair of two-run homers and drove in six. The Yanks have hit a club-record 245 home runs. It's the Yanks' 13th AL East title in 17 years.
— Baltimore goes to the playoffs as the wild card. The Orioles lost at Tampa Bay 4-0. Evan Longoria hit three solo homers. Longoria's second career three-homer game came a year after the three-time All-Star hit two of them of the final night of last season, including a 12th-inning game-ending shot that clinched a postseason berth. His bid for the first four-homer game in franchise history ended when he grounded out in the eighth.
In other AL finals:
— The AL Central champion Detroit Tigers, with Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera going 0-for-2 before leaving to a standing ovation, prepped for the playoffs by blanking Kansas City 1-0.
— Casper Wells tied a career-high with five RBIs including a three-run homer in Seattle's six-run seventh inning, and the Mariners closed out the 2012 season with a 12-0 rout of the Los Angeles Angels. Angels' starter Jered Weaver pitched just one inning before leaving the game. Weaver finished 20-5. He had a chance to become the fourth pitcher in Angels' history to reach 21 wins, but called it a season early after giving up two runs, two hits and walking two batters in the first inning. The team said Weaver had "general fatigue" as the reason he threw just one inning.
— Brandon Morrow struck out a season-high 11, Omar Vizquel wrapped up his 24-year career and the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Minnesota Twins 2-1 to complete a three-game sweep.
— Dan Johnson hit his first three homers of the season and Chicago added two more in the game as the White Sox routed the Cleveland Indians 9-0.
Over in the NL:
— The Washington Nationals have wrapped up home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Nats, who had already clinched the National League East, secured home-field with a 5-1 win over Philadelphia. They end the regular season with 98 wins, just three seasons after they won just 59 games.
Nationals manager Davey Johnson is expected to be all right for the playoffs. He left the dugout in the seventh inning Wednesday because of numbness in his left leg, the result of pinched nerves in his back.
— The playoff-bound Braves beat the Pirates in Pittsburgh 4-0. The game was the regular season swan song for Chipper Jones, who had a pinch-hit single in the final regular-season game of his career. The Pirates finished 79-83, extending their record streak of losing seasons to 20.
— Rookie right-hander Shelby Miller took a no-hitter into the sixth inning in his first career start, Matt Carpenter had a run-scoring single and the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Cincinnati Reds 1-0. Both teams already had wrapped up playoff spots.
— Bryan LaHair's walk-off single gave the Chicago Cubs a 5-4 win over Houston. The Cubs wind up 61-101 and Houston finishes its final National League season with a dreadful 55-107 record. This was the first series between two 100-game losers since 1962. Houston's 107 defeats set a club record. The Astros became the first team with 106 or more losses in consecutive seasons since the 1964-65 New York Mets.
— Clayton Kershaw finished with a major league-leading 2.53 ERA, Adrian Gonzalez singled in the go-ahead run in the sixth inning, and the Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the San Francisco Giants 5-1.
— The Mets beat the Marlins 4-2. Ike Davis hit his 32nd home run. Scott Hairston and Andres Torres also went deep.
— Jeff Francis earned his first victory in more than a month and the Colorado Rockies used two unearned runs to beat Ian Kennedy and the Arizona Diamondbacks 2-1.
— San Diego nipped Milwaukee 7-6. Chase Headley drove in two runs, finishing the season with an NL-leading 115 RBIs.
Cabrera gets first Triple Crown since Yaz in 1967
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera became the first player in 45 years to win baseball's Triple Crown on Wednesday night, joining an elite list that includes Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams and Lou Gehrig. He's the 10th Triple Crown winner in baseball history.
Cabrera received a standing ovation after flying out and striking out in his only two at-bats Wednesday night, and leaving the Tigers' game against the Kansas City Royals in the fourth inning with the Triple Crown in sight.
Cabrera high-fived his teammates as he entered the Detroit dugout, then walked back to the top step and waved his helmet as a crowd of mostly Royals fans gave him a standing ovation.
Cabrera finished the regular season with a .330 average, 44 homers and 139 RBIs, wrapping up baseball's first Triple Crown since Boston's Carl Yastrzemski (yah-STREM'-skee) in 1967.
MLB-NL BATTING TITLE
LOS ANGELES (AP) — San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey has won the National League batting title with a .336 average. The previous catcher to win the NL title was Ernie Lombardi of the Boston Braves, who hit .330 in 1942.
Francona to interview with Indians...Phillies sack 3 coaches
UNDATED (AP) — Former Boston manager Terry Francona will interview with the Cleveland Indians on Friday.
Francona's meeting will come one day after interim manager Sandy Alomar Jr. has his formal interview with general manager Chris Antonetti. Alomar took over the team for the remaining six games of the season when Manny Acta was fired last week.
Francona, who has been working as an analyst for ESPN, led the Red Sox to World Series titles in 2004 and 2007. He was a special assistant in Cleveland's front office in 2001.
In other also-ran news:
— The Phillies fired first base coach Sam Perlozzo, bench coach Pete Mackanin and hitting coach Greg Gross following their .500 season that ended a run of five straight NL East titles. And expect more moves. Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said Philadelphia is "definitely going to have some changes" on its roster.
— The Cubs fired third base coach Pat Listach following their 101-loss season.
Jets' Holmes out for season
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Receiver Santonio Holmes of the Jets will miss the rest of this season with an injured left foot. The club reports that Holmes will require surgery and that he has been placed on season-ending injured reserve. The team signed free agent wide receiver Jason Hill to help replace him.
The news came just over a week after star cornerback Darrelle Revis was likely lost for the season with a torn ligament in his left knee.
In other NFL news:
— The New England Patriots have re-signed veteran linebacker Bobby Carpenter. The Patriots had released Carpenter on the final cut of training camp on Sept. 1 after signing him as a free agent following two seasons with the Detroit Lions.
— Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams is questioning why he's been fined $15,000 by the NFL for a roughing the passer penalty against New England's Tom Brady. He intends to appeal.
Bulldogs lose receiver... Gators get linebacker back
UNDATED (AP) — As his team gets ready for a big SEC game this Saturday with South Carolina, Georgia coach Mark Richt has had to announce that leading wide receiver Michael Bennett will miss the remainder of the season after injuring his right knee. Richt says that Bennett tore the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his right knee on the last play of practice Tuesday.
Bennett leads the fifth-ranked Bulldogs with 24 catches for 345 yards and four touchdowns. The Gamecocks enter the game ranked No. 6.
In other Top-25 football news:
— Florida linebacker Jelani Jenkins is expected to play Saturday against No. 4 LSU after missing the last two games. Jenkins broke his right thumb Sept. 8 at Texas A&M and missed games against Tennessee and Kentucky.
League adopts anti-flopping rules
NEW YORK (AP) — The NBA has announced anti-flopping rules that will fine repeat offenders. The league says that flopping will be defined "as any physical act that appears to have been intended to cause the referees to call a foul on another player."
Players will get a warning the first time, then be fined $5,000 the second time. The fines increase to $30,000 for a fifth offense. Six or more could lead to a suspension.
Commissioner David Stern has sought to end flopping, believing it tricks the referees.
In other NBA news:
— The New York Knicks have just gotten older. They have signed forward Rasheed Wallace, a four-time All-Star who is ending a two-year retirement.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL-PENN STATE
Attendance off 10 percent, Penn State holds line on pricing
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — Penn State won't increase football season ticket prices or current donation levels in 2013, and announced tweaks to guidelines including a lower, $200 level of giving for booster-club members.
Attendance is down about 10 percent over the last two years.
It's also unclear what impact the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal may have had on attendance.