Miguel Cabrera officially wrapped up the American League Triple Crown on Wednesday, finishing his spectacular season hitting .330 with 44 homers and 139 RBI. It’s just the 14th time since 1901 that the historic feat has been accomplished and the first since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.
It took a power surge over the final month of the season to overcome Josh Hamilton and Adam Dunn for the AL lead in home runs. Cabrera entered the month with 33 bombs, chasing Hamilton’s 36 and Dunn’s 38. He was up to the challenge, picking up the pace offensively by hitting .333 with 11 long balls and 30 RBI since September 1.
Regardless of which side of the Mike Trout vs. Miguel Cabrera debate for AL MVP you fall on, it’s hard not to be awestruck with the fantastic offensive campaign that Cabrera has delivered. The fact that the 29-year-old superstar has earned this honor while leading his team to a division title may just be enough to sway voters in his direction.
The Oakland Athletics put the exclamation mark on a magical 2012 regular season on Wednesday. After taking the first two games of the final series against the Rangers, they battled back from an early four-run deficit to complete the sweep and earn their first division title since 2006.
Things got off to a rocky start when rookie right-hander A.J. Griffin turned in perhaps his worst outing of the year, surrendering five runs (four earned) on seven hits in just 2 2/3 innings. Tasked with that early 5-1 deficit, the A’s showed the resiliency, scrappiness and heart that have made them fan favorites throughout this dream season.
The first four A’s reached in the fourth inning, with Josh Reddick and Seth Smith delivering RBI knocks. After the next two were retired, Coco Crisp came through in a big way with a clutch two-run double, tying the game at 5-5. The real turning point of the game came after Stephen Drew walked. With two-on and two-out, Yoenis Cespedes hit a fly ball to center field that Josh Hamilton dropped for a two-run error. The A’s didn’t let up either, posting another run in the fifth inning and tacking on four in the eighth to earn the 12-5 victory.
It also can’t be overstated how fantastic the bullpen was in this game, as Evan Scribner, Jerry Blevins, Ryan Cook, Sean Doolittle and Grant Balfour combined to toss 6 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing only four hits and one walk while striking out eight.
In completing the comeback, and the sweep of the Rangers, the Athletics erased what was at one time a 13-game deficit in the division. Astoundingly, they were five games back with just nine left to play, and finished the season in sole possession of first place for just the first time all season.
They’ll begin the next chapter of their storybook season when they do battle against Justin Verlander and the Tigers in Detroit on Saturday.
So Long, Larry...
Perhaps slightly lost in all of the hoopla and craziness going on in the American League playoff races on the final day of the season, one of the most outstanding players of his generation likely played in his final major league game.
Chipper Jones entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the sixth inning, and lined the only pitch he saw on the night for a single. It was the 2,726th hit in his illustrious career, placing him 57th on the all-time hits list. He’ll hang em’ up with a career .303 average, 468 home runs (32nd all-time) and 1623 RBI (31st all-time). He also ranks 45th all-time in runs scored with 1,618. Perhaps the most impressive feat of all though, is the tremendous 1512/1409 walk/strikeout ratio he compiled over his impressive 19-season career.
The 1st pick in the 1990 amateur draft, Chipper made eight All-Star teams, won a pair of Silver Slugger awards and was named the National League MVP nearly unanimously in 1999. He played a major role on Braves’ squads that won 11 consecutive NL East division titles (1995-2005), and a World Series title in 1995.
He’s surely on his way to Cooperstown, and in all likelihood will get voted in on the first ballot. He isn’t quite ready to go out just yet though, as there’s still unfinished business to tend to. The Braves would love to send him out with his second World Series Championship, and they’ll take the first step towards that goal when they host on the Cardinals in the NL Wild Card game on Friday.
Cano Comes Through
Robinson Cano, a player who some will argue has struggled in clutch situations this season, had the finest offensive game of his career on Wednesday, powering the Yankees to a critical 14-2 victory over the Red Sox and an American League East division title.
Cano went 4-for-4, smashed a pair of home runs, walked, scored three times and drove home a career-high six runs. He finishes up another fantastic offensive campaign hitting .313/.379/.550 with 33 homers, 105 runs scored, 94 RBI and three stolen bases. You’d be hard pressed to find a better offensive second baseman on the planet. Cano will again be the first name off the board at the position in 2013 fantasy drafts, and rightfully so.
Rodney Sets New ERA Mark
Fernando Rodney also accomplished something incredibly significant and noteworthy in the 2012 season, notching a microscopic 0.60 ERA. It’s the lowest mark recorded by a relief pitcher in major league history, narrowly edging out Dennis Eckersley’s 0.61 mark from 1990.
The 35-year-old right-hander owned a career 4.29 ERA coming into the season, and was only thrust into the closer’s role due to an injury to the incumbent Kyle Farnsworth. He responded by converting 48 saves in 50 chances while posting a 0.78 WHIP and 76/15 K/BB ratio over 74 2/3 innings. He’s likely to garner several votes for the AL Cy Young award.
National League Quick Hits: Matt Kemp will undergo surgery on his left shoulder on Friday, but shouldn’t have any problem returning before the start of the 2013 season… Edwin Jackson limited the Phillies to one run over 6 2/3 innings on Wednesday, delivering the Nationals home-field advantage throughout the postseason… Carlos Quentin will undergo another arthroscopic surgery on his right knee this offseason… The Dodgers announced that Clayton Kershaw will not need hip surgery this offseason, and that the injury shouldn’t impact his regular offseason routine… Jason Giambi will undergo surgery next week to repair a hernia, but could struggle to find an interested team on the free-agent market… Bobby Parnell recorded his seventh save in a victory over the Marlins, and could enter the 2013 season as a dark-horse candidate to supplant Frank Francisco… Ike Davis homered in the final game of the season, finishing with 32 bombs and 90 RBI… Mike Morse homered and doubled twice in a victory over the Phillies… Shelby Miller carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning, and finished with six scoreless innings, taking a no-decision in his first MLB start… Rafael Furcal said that he’s still a month away from returning, effectively ruling out any chance of his return in the postseason… Clayton Kershaw put the final stamp on his candidacy to repeat as the NL Cy Young winner, tossing eight innings of one-run ball in a victory over the Giants. He finishes the season with a 14-9 record, 2.53 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 229/63 K/BB ratio over 227 2/3 excellent innings.
American League Quick Hits: Evan Longoria smashed three solo home runs in Wednesday’s victory over the Orioles, giving him 17 homers and 55 RBI in an injury-shortened campaign… Joe Mauer locked up the MLB on-base percentage crown, finishing with a terrific .416 mark… Brandon McCarthy hasn’t yet been ruled out from returning at some point in the postseason. Though an encouraging sign, it still seems like a longshot… According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, the Red Sox do intend to fire Bobby Valentine on Thursday or Friday… Brendan Ryan will undergo surgery to remove bone chips from his right elbow this offseason… Curtis Granderson smashed a pair of homers, giving him 43 on the season, as the Yankees clobbered the Red Sox… Red Sox’ GM Ben Cherington and David Ortiz have already engaged in talks to potentially bring the free-agent slugger back to Boston… Hisashi Iwakuma wouldn’t commit when asked about returning to the Mariners next season, but is expected to garner plenty of interest on the free-agent market… Jered Weaver left his final start of the season after one inning to what they’re calling “general fatigue.” He finishes the season with a 20-5 record, 2.81 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 142/45 K/BB ratio over 188 2/3 innings… Ryan Dempster was roughed up in his final start of the regular season, surrendering five runs in three-plus innings… Omar Vizquel played in the final game of his MLB career, going 1-for-3. He finishes his career with 2,877 hits, passing Mel Ott for 39th on the all-time list… Dan Johnson smashed three homers and plated five as the White Sox routed the Indians… Max Scherzer tossed four scoreless innings in his return to the rotation, and should be ready to start the second or third game of the ALDS against the A’s.