Rangers unable to put division away

OAKLAND, Calif. -- How did this happen to the Texas Rangers?

How did a club coming off two consecutive World Series and in command of the AL West for the entire season watch it slip away on the final day?

In fairness, as the Rangers lost grasp on the title, the Oakland A's were there to snatch it, never giving up even when it didn't appear they would have a shot. And they crushed the Rangers on Wednesday, breaking a 5-5 tie on an inexplicable Josh Hamilton error and then never looking back, capturing the division with a 12-5 victory.

"I'm disappointed and sad," manager Ron Washington said. "You play all year to try to win the division and then you don't get it done, especially when you thought you were on your way to do just that and the tables turned. I'm disappointed, but we've still got an opportunity. We put our backs against the wall by having to play one game, but we're capable of winning that one game. Once we get in, you never know what may happen."

The Rangers' season shouldn't come down to Friday's elimination game in the AL wild card. This was Texas' division all year. The Rangers cruised through April, nearly burying the Los Angeles Angels in the process. The A's were 13 back in June and an afterthought.

But they just kept coming. And the Rangers struggled to find consistency in the second half of the season, unable to put the division away.

Still, they were in command, just as they have been for the better part of three seasons now. They led the AL West for 178 days. According to Elias Sports Bureau, no team in baseball history has led its division that long and not come out with a title -- until now.

They led by four games with six to play. And they needed just one win in this three-game series to clinch. Instead, they lost five of those six games while the A's won six straight to earn an unlikely title.

This wasn't how they planned to end the regular season. It was supposed to be the Rangers who ran to the mound and mobbed each other, not a green-and-gold glob that touched off another huge celebration for the amazing A's.

The visiting clubhouse in Oakland was supposed to be covered in plastic, absorbing a second Rangers celebration in three years. But no champagne flowed there Wednesday. There were no water and ginger ale showers.

After all, you don't throw a party when you're the two-time defending AL champions and you get drubbed in the division-deciding game.

But unlike the Boston Red Sox and Atlanta Braves of 2011, two teams that collapsed last year and weren't around for the postseason, the Rangers still have life.

They will host a one-game, winner-take-all contest Friday against the Baltimore Orioles. They have to forget about a disappointing week and focus on winning the only game that matters now.

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