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Sports AL West champ Rangers celebrate, plan for another playoffs

AL West champ Rangers celebrate, plan for another playoffs

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Colby Lewis obliged his wife when she requested a picture under an AL West champion banner of the four Texas players part of each division title since 2010.

Lewis was joined for the celebratory clubhouse photo op Friday night by Elvis Andrus, Derek Holland and Mitch Moreland.

The Rangers are on to the playoffs again after capturing their second straight AL West title and fourth since 2010 with a 3-0 win against the Oakland Athletics.

“It’s just kind of a testament to the organization and what they have done to bring titles here, bring the right guys in, keep a relaxed atmosphere,” Lewis said Saturday. “It’s a testament to our clubhouse, the guys that we have. We just got out there and have fun. I don’t think we worry about a lot. I think that’s the one thing that makes our club so good.”

Texas (92-63) is the first AL team to secure a playoff berth, and beat the A’s 5-0 on Saturday to move 29 games above .500 for the first time in exactly four years, since Sept. 24, 2012. The Rangers are a big league-best 36-11 in one-run games.

Andrus was the only veteran player in Saturday’s day-after-clinching lineup. Manager Jeff Banister looked to give guys a quick rest before chasing home-field advantage, which he called priority one.

“The talent that we have is able to keep us in that position that we’re in right now,” slugger Prince Fielder said. “It just has a lot to say about the way the Rangers scout and what they see and how they develop players. It’s always a good thing when that happens.”

For Fielder, joined for the special weekend by sons Jadyn, 12, and 10-year-old Haven, winning regular division titles is why he so appreciates being with Texas, even if the six-time All-Star will never play following a second neck surgery. The Rangers acquired him from Detroit in November 2013 for Ian Kinsler and took on the bulk of his final seven seasons from a $214 million, nine-year contract — and Fielder has watched the franchise continue to add key pieces each season to contend.

“That’s a sign of a good organization. An organization that always wants to win always has to keep getting better,” Fielder said. “Sometimes you have to keep making moves, keep getting guys to piece them together. That just goes to show what kind of organization this is.”

While ace left-hander Cole Hamels (15-5), Friday night’s winner, will get one more start ahead of taking the ball Game 1 of the AL Division Series, Banister had not discussed the schedule with his All-Star pitcher yet. Yu Darvish also was scheduled to start once more after his nine-strikeout winning outing Saturday at the Coliseum.

Derek Holland will move to the bullpen as Banister, his staff and general manager Jon Daniels evaluate how the Rangers’ playoff roster might look. Carrying eight relievers over the seven Texas had a year ago for a five-game division series defeat to Toronto is Banister’s leaning right now.

“Eight is probably the optimum if you can pull it off,” he said. “Eight might be a better option.”

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