Texas closer Joe Nathan’s critical save helped the Texas Rangers clinch a playoff spot with an 8-7 victory over the Los Angeles Angels that also secured postseason berths for the Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees on Sunday.
Nathan blew a chance for a save in the opening game of a doubleheader with the Angels, allowing two runs in the ninth in a 5-4 defeat, but he nailed down the ninth in the nightcap to launch Texas back into the postseason.
The two-time American League champions gained at least a wild-card berth with the victory, which put them two games ahead of Oakland in the American League West with three to play in the regular season.
Baltimore and New York, who both won on Sunday to remain deadlocked in the American League East, also secured at least a wild-card spot thanks to the Rangers’ triumph.
For the Orioles, it will be their first playoff appearance since 1997 while the Yankees are headed back to the postseason for the 17th time in 18 years. Texas fell behind visiting Los Angeles 4-0 in the first inning of the nightcap, but responded with eight consecutive runs behind Mike Napoli, who hit two home runs and finished with six RBIs.
The Angels made a game of it by scoring three in the seventh inning to pull within one run before falling. Souring the win was an injury to infielder Adrian Beltre, who left the game in the seventh with a left shoulder strain.
Oakland stayed in control for the second American League wild card with a 5-2 win against the Seattle Mariners.
In the AL East, the Yankees woke up their offense just in time to rally past Toronto 9-6 while Baltimore beat Boston 6-3 for their fourth consecutive win.
“[A clinch] means we’re in the playoffs, but you celebrate for winning the division,” Yankees captain Derek Jeter told reporters. “Our goal going into the season isn’t to clinch a wild card. It’s to win a division, and we still haven’t done that.”
The Yankees scored seven runs in the final three innings against Toronto to erase a 5-1 deficit.
Baltimore collected three runs in the first inning en route its sweep of the Red Sox.
“We can do it at home or we can do it on the plane. We are going to party somewhere,” center fielder Adam Jones said before the Orioles boarded a plane for Tampa and their next game.
At Minnesota, the Detroit Tigers inched closer to winning the AL Central thanks to a 2-1 triumph against the Twins.
Prince Fielder smacked a go-ahead two-run homer in the eighth inning and the Tigers (86-73) grabbed a three-game lead over the Chicago White Sox with just three games left.
The White Sox (83-76), who controlled the AL Central for much of the year, lost to Tampa Bay 6-2 to fall to the verge of postseason elimination.
In the National League, St Louis closed in on the playoffs after a 10-4 rout of the Washington Nationals.
Carlos Beltran drilled a pair of home runs, giving him 32 on the season, and finished with five RBIs to give the Cardinals a two-game edge for the NL’s second wild card spot.
The Los Angeles Dodgers stayed two behind after a 7-1 victory over Colorado.