The Texas Rangers clinched the American League West division title and booked their first Major League Baseball playoff berth in 11 years on Saturday with a 4-3 victory over Oakland. Jorge Cantu delivered the tiebreaking home run in the eighth inning.
After closing pitcher Neftali Feliz retired Cliff Penningtonon a fly ball for the last out of the game, players poured out of the Rangers dugout to celebrate.
Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton, who has been sidelined for three weeks with broken ribs, embraced teammates and jumped up and down near third base.
The Rangers became the second team to secure a major league playoff berth, joining American League Central champions Minnesota.
Texas is the only current major league club never to win a playoff series. The Rangers won three AL West crowns from 1996-99, but they lost to the New York Yankees in the first round each time.
Cantu’s solo homer in the eighth was his first home run since he was traded from Florida to Texas in July.
Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina returned to St. Louis Wednesday to have an MRI taken on his sore right knee.
The Gold Glove catcher has played with pain and soreness in the knee for several weeks but has repeatedly downplayed the injury when questioned by reporters.
Molina will rejoin the Cardinals Friday in Chicago but his availability for the remainder of the season will determine on the results of Thursday’s MRI.
“Last night he was limping a little bit and the trainers just thought for precautionary purposes, we had better make sure we know what’s going on in there,” General Manager John Mozeliak told Jim Hayes in Pittsburgh on the Fox Sports Midwest pregame show. “Obviously if you do an MRI it might reveal something, but there is a sense of optimism that he will be OK.”
Molina, who is hitting .262 with six home runs and a career-high 62 RBIs, had arthroscopic surgery on the same knee following the 2007 season. Thursday’s MRI should tell the Cardinals if he will need any additional surgery following this season.
Molina originally injured the knee when the Cardinals were in Washington in late August and missed two games before returning. The All-Star starter is having another stellar year defensively and will likely win his third-straight Gold Glove award.
Rookie Matt Pagnozzi started Wednesday night in Molina’s place.
Cardinals infielder Felipe Lopez was released Tuesday, a day after he was late arriving for a game against Florida.
Lopez, a former Red, accompanied the Cardinals to Pittsburgh to begin a three-game series, but was told before Tuesday’s game by manager Tony La Russa and general manager John Mozeliak that he was being let go.
“He’s healthy. He’s just not going to get starts and not going to come off the bench,” La Russa said. “He was told and he said, OK.’ There was no reason for him to be around, so …”
Mozeliak said Lopez arrived late at the stadium for Monday’s game at Florida, a makeup of a previous rainout.
“He was late, and it was not the first time,” Mozeliak said. “When you think about what we’re trying to accomplish here, we brought up a lot of young players with our September callups, and we wanted to make sure they understand the message we want heard. It really came down to a tipping point and it was either just not play him or allow him to go home.”
Lopez’s lateness was beginning to wear on the team’s staff, especially with the Cardinals fighting the perception that some players have already given up on the season.
The Cardinals are nearing elimination by Cincinnati in an NL Central race they led as late as Aug. 14.
“It was one thing, I think, the coaching staff had been very tolerant of, and they came to a point where they’d had enough,” Mozeliak said. “Obviously with two weeks left in the season you would prefer not to have to make these kind of decisions or react in this way, but I understand why we did it. I think it really sends a strong message to the younger players on what our expectations are.”
Lopez, signed during the offseason as a utility player, hit .231 with seven homers and 36 RBI in 109 games, making 89 starts. He filled in for two months as the starting third baseman when David Freese was hurt, but his playing time was cut after Pedro Feliz was acquired from Houston on Aug. 19.
Lopez’s salary was $1,000,000.
“He’s had a tough year,” La Russa said. “And I was his biggest advocate.”
The McBrayer-Baseball Blog has just learned that Jason LaRue told the St.Louis Post Dispatch that his career is over due to Johnny Cueto’s feet during Aug. 10 brawl against the Reds. He has also told the Post Dispatch that he had suffered many concussions since his days as a high school football player till now. LaRue has also suffered headaches and nausea since the brawl. He has been unable to cook or even drive a car. So LaRue is retiring after this season. LaRue has spent 12 years playing major league baseball. LaRue will be missed and hopefully the Cardinals will offer a proper celebration in regards to his career here with the Cardinals. You will be missed.
Had a great night Thursday while attending Social Media Night. For attending this gathering I received four tickets from the Cardinals and enjoyed a win over the Padres. Before the game John Mozeliak field questions from online tweeters and bloggers from the audience. Here are some noteworthy comments Mo had replied from the questions. He did mention that LaRussa has a time limit of two weeks once the World Series is over to decide if he is coming back as the manager or not. If not he will be looking into a new manager for the team. He also talked about looking into a new shortstop and second baseman for the 2011 season. Does this mean good bye to Brendan Ryan? and Skip Schumacher? He also mentioned that payroll should go up for 2011-12-13 and Rasmus will not be traded. He also mentioned how Pujols, Molina, Holiday and Rasmus are the core players of this team. With the payroll increase it sounds as if this will cover Pujols new contract and sign a free agent for the short stop position or second base. It was a blast to be there to know that my blog is being recognized. Little did I know that my ramblings and baseball news reporting is a focal point in this huge blogosphere,
Ryan Franklin’s latest visit with Bruce Sutter has him thinking about not retiring at this moment. Franklin’s contract runs out at the end of 2011 season. Sutter told Ryan if you still have the capability to play don’t give up. So this has Ryan to rethink about if he should retire or not. This will be a family decision. Ryan will return tonight with the team after taking some personal time off in regards to his family.