This time, the Oakland A’s didn’t make their fans wait until the final day

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The A’s clinched the American League West Division title on Sunday with a Texas loss before winning 11-7 at home over Minnesota. Last season, the A’s defeated the Rangers on the final day to sweep the series and win the division title.

“I think last year we surprised a lot of people,” A’s third baseman Josh Donaldson said. “I think this year we’re an all-around better team and we feel like we belong.”

Oakland, which was 94-63 after Monday’s victory, won its 16th division title and will make its 25th postseason appearance.

Now the A’s will focus on preparing for the playoffs, and avoiding an early exit after dropping a divisional-round series in five games to Detroit last year.

“Last year, it was euphoria at the end,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “We were happy to be there. But this is just a whole different feel this year. We really did expect to be here as a team.”

Braves, Dodgers, Red Sox clinch too: The Atlanta Braves, who are no Johnny-come-latelies to the postseason with numerous appearances over the past 20 years, sealed the National League East crown on Sunday with a Washington loss before beating the Chicago Cubs on the road.

Atlanta, which was 92-64 record going into Tuesday’s game, will make its third playoff appearance in four years. But it’s the Braves’ first division title since 2005. They were NL East champions for 11 straight years from 1995 to 2005, and won 14 of 15 division titles from 1991 to 2005.

Last season, Atlanta lost in a one-game wild-card playoff to St. Louis.

“We know last year what happened,” Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons said. “We played pretty good, but not good enough and we had to deal with a one-game playoff thing. Now we know we’ve got some time, we’ve got some games to work with. We’ve got a little bit of time to rest our players.”

The Los Angeles Dodgers became the first team this season to clinch a postseason berth when they defeated Arizona 7-6 last Thursday. They celebrated by jumping into the pool at the Diamondbacks’ Chase Field.

“I want to keep going,” said Hanley Ramirez, who hit two home runs in the game. “We’ve got to keep working and stay together all the way through to the end.”

The Dodgers came a long way from a 30-42 start to the season, going 60-24 since, through Sunday’s game. They will be making their 18th playoff appearance since moving to Los Angeles in 1958.

“This is a great accomplishment for these guys,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “We put a great team together and a big payroll with huge expectations. The players came together, we got healthy, and then we just rolled.”

Boston earned its first postseason appearance since 2009 by winning its first American League East title since 2007. The Red Sox clinched last Friday with a 6-3 win over Toronto at Fenway Park.

“We’re going to the playoffs,” Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz said. “People have got to believe we’ve got a good team. We’re going to take this all the way there.”

After 21 years, Pirates return to postseason: The Pittsburgh Pirates finally reached the playoffs again. For the first time since 1992, the Pirates are back in the postseason after beating the Chicago Cubs while Washington lost on Monday night.

After 20 straight losing seasons, Pittsburgh will finish with a winning record and at least a wild-card berth.

“You hear it every single day – ‘When’s it going to change?,’ Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen said. “It’s awesome that there won’t be any questions anymore. The question is, ‘Are we going to be able to go farther?”

Yankees honor Rivera: The New York Yankees honored closer Mariano Rivera on Sunday at Yankee Stadium in his last home game before he retires. The ceremony included visits from ex-teammates such as Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams and Tino Martinez, along with former manager Joe Torre.

The Yankees retired Rivera’s No. 42 jersey, placing his number in Monument Park, making him the first active Yankee to receive the honor.

“The whole thing was special. I wasn’t expecting something like that,” Rivera said.

Rivera entered the game in the eighth inning, relieving Andy Pettitte, who was making his last home start as a Yankee. Rivera pitched 1 2/3 innings, allowing a hit with one strikeout.

“The way he’s went about his business is something you wish that everyone could do,” said Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who was Rivera’s catcher from 1996-99. “I would tell my son or my kids this is an example of how you’re supposed to go about your work.”

StatsWatch: Yankees closer Marian Rivera’s career statistics (through Monday):

  • Baseball’s all-time saves leader with 652.
  • MLB-record 42 postseason saves.
  • Five-time World Series champion.
  • With 44 saves this season, is the only pitcher to ever record a 40-save season at age 40 or older.
  • 82-60 career record, with 2.21 ERA.
  • 6-2 record this season, with 2.15 ERA.
  • 19 major-league seasons.
  • 13-time All-Star.

Copyright ã 2013 Bob Hurst. All Rights Reserved. Distributed by Hurst Sports Media.

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