Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera won baseball’s first Triple Crown in 45 years Wednesday night, achieving one of the game’s greatest feats.
And baseball’s playoff lineup was settled on the final day of the regular season when the Oakland A’s clinched the A.L. West and the New York Yankees captured the A.L. East.
Cabrera topped the American League with a .330 batting average, 44 home runs and 139 RBIs, becoming only the 15th player to win the Triple Crown and the first since Boston’s Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.
“I am glad that he accomplished this while leading his team to the American League Central title,” Yastrzemski said in a statement. “I was fortunate enough to win this award in 1967 as part of the Red Sox Impossible Dream Team.”
Los Angeles Angels rookie Mike Trout was second in batting at .326, while New York Yankees slugger Curtis Granderson and Texas star Josh Hamilton finished tied for second with 43 homers. Hamilton ranked second with 128 RBIs.
Granderson homered twice Wednesday night, then was removed from the game with the Yankees holding a huge lead in a 14-2 rout of Boston.
Until Cabrera’s run, Triple Crowns seemed to be a relic from another era. When the feat was last accomplished, the World Series was still played in the daytime, there were no playoffs and each league had eight teams.
Cabrera had topped each category before, winning the home run title in 2008, the RBI crown in 2010 and the batting championship last year.
“When he’s over the plate he can do anything,” Trout said. “He’s the best hitter in the game. I think his approach, the way he battles with two strikes; you leave one pitch over the plate that at-bat and he’s going to hit it. He had an unbelievable year.”
A dropped fly ball by Josh Hamilton, a home run from Ryan Zimmerman and pitch by pitch, the baseball playoff picture became completely clear.
“Now the real season starts,” New York Yankees star Derek Jeter said.
The playoffs begin Friday with a pair of winner-take-all wild-card matchups. The defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals visit Chipper Jones and the Atlanta Braves in the N.L., then Baltimore plays at Texas in the new, expanded format.
On Saturday, the newly crowned A.L. West champion Oakland Athletics will face Cabrera, Justin Verlander and the Tigers in Detroit to open the best-of-5 division series.
That night, Johnny Cueto starts for Cincinnati against Matt Cain and host San Francisco in Game 1 of the N.L. division series.
The low-budget A’s clinched their unlikely title, trumping Texas 12-5 by taking advantage of Hamilton’s error. Trailing by 13 games a week before the All-Star break, the A’s overcame a four-run deficit Wednesday to relegate the Rangers to a wild-card spot.
The Yankees claimed the A.L. East a few hours later. They began celebrating in the dugout during the seventh inning when the scoreboard showed second-place Baltimore had lost 4-1 to Tampa Bay, thanks to three home runs by Evan Longoria.
The Yankees put an emphatic end on their finish, routing rival Boston 14-2.
New York holds home-field advantage throughout the A.L. playoffs, and will open Sunday at either Baltimore or Texas.
Washington will play Sunday at the N.L. wild-card winner. Nationals manager Davey Johnson is expected to be all right for the opener. He left the dugout in the seventh inning Wednesday because of numbness in his left leg, the result of pinched nerves in his back.
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