ANAHEIM, Calif. Torii Hunter put on goggles, got on the clubhouse floor and began doing the butterfly and backstroke in a puddle of beer and champagne.
Hunter, who joined the Los Angeles Angels as a free agent this season, and his teammates had plenty to celebrate Wednesday. They became the first team in the majors to clinch a playoff spot by winning their fourth AL West title in five years.
"I love it. I'm Michael Phelps," Hunter bellowed, invoking the Olympic swimmer who won eight gold medals in Beijing. "This is what it's all about."
Francisco Rodriguez earned his 56th save in closing out the Angels' 4-2 victory over the New York Yankees. Second-place Texas lost to Seattle 8-7 about an hour later, clinching the division for Los Angeles.
That set off mini-parties as the players emerged from the clubhouse to share their jubilation with several hundred fans who remained to cheer the final out in Seattle.
Hunter, who joined the Angels from Minnesota as a free agent during the offseason, began serving a two-day suspension Wednesday, so he wasn't allowed on the field or in the dugout. Pitcher Justin Speier wore Hunter's jersey on the field in his honor.
Stadium scoreboards flashed '2008 AL West champions' and fans held up their own signs, including one that read 'I want to go to the World Series.'
"It doesn't get old," longtime Angels star Garret Anderson said.<
Team owner Arte Moreno came on the field, clapping his hands and repeatedly signaling thumbs-up to the red-clad fans. They responded with chants of "Arte! Arte!"
"Right now I'm more interested in how we finish up the season and get prepared to play in the playoffs," he said. "Obviously, you always like to have home-field advantage."
Pitcher Jered Weaver was the most exuberant, waving his cap and pumping his arms. A teammate poured beer into his mouth.
A couple players grabbed the hose behind the pitcher's mound and turned it on, spraying their teammates and fans gathered behind the Angels' dugout.
The Angels, with the best record in baseball, can now spend their final 17 games resting and setting up their rotation for the playoffs.
"There's no such thing as too soon to clinch," said Hunter, who began serving a two-game suspension for helping trigger a bench-clearing scuffle with the Yankees' Ivan Rodriguez on Monday. "We've been going hard to get to this point. It doesn't matter if we clinch early or late, as long as we clinched."
Los Angeles wrapped up the division without starters Chone Figgins (injured), Mark Teixeira (ill) and Hunter, who was suspended for helping trigger a bench-clearing scuffle with Yankees catcher Ivan Rodriguez on Monday.
The Angels will try to do something that none of their previous division-winning teams accomplished reach the World Series. They won their first and only World Series title as a wild-card team in 2002, the year they knocked Hunter's Minnesota Twins out of the playoffs.
Perhaps, there might even be the first Freeway Series this year the Dodgers lead the NL West.
Like Hunter, Mark Teixeira was thrilled to come to the Angels after years of playing with the Rangers in the same division.
"I've always been jealous of the Angels," he said. "Some great players play their entire careers without ever getting a taste of the postseason, and I'm going to have that opportunity this year."
WHITE SOX 6, BLUE JAYS 5: At Chicago, Mark Buehrle outpitched Roy Halladay and Chicago stopped Toronto's 10-game winning streak. A.J. Pierzynski drove in three runs for the White Sox, who stayed one game ahead of Minnesota in the AL Central.
The Blue Jays scored three runs in the ninth inning and fell one victory short of tying the longest winning streak in team history, set in 1987 and matched in 1998.
Toronto lost to the White Sox for the first time in seven meetings this year.
Buehrle (13-11) gave up seven singles in 7 1-3 innings. He walked two and struck out six.
Buehrle left with a 5-0 lead and a runner on base. Alex Rios greeted reliever Octavio Dotel with his 14th homer. Pinch-hitter Brian Anderson's RBI single with two outs in the eighth put Chicago up 6-2.
Halladay (18-10) had won five straight starts. He lasted six innings, yielding nine hits and five runs with a walk and eight strikeouts. The five runs matched the most Halladay had given up in a game this season.
TWINS 7, ROYALS 1: At Minneapolis, Kevin Slowey allowed four hits over seven innings for Minnesota, which notched consecutive wins for the first time in nearly three weeks. Jason Kubel had three hits and two RBIs for Minnesota, while Alexi Casilla had three singles.
Four of Minnesota's five RBIs came with two outs, and the Twins (80-65) surpassed last year's victory total behind another strong start from Slowey (12-9).
The Royals fell to 3-11 this season against Minnesota and have lost 13 of their last 15 road games.
Kyle Davies (6-7) gave up four runs and eight hits over 5 2-3 innings for Kansas City, while Delmon Young, Nick Punto and Carlos Gomez also drove in runs for the Twins.
INDIANS 7, ORIOLES 1: At Baltimore, Scott Lewis allowed three hits over eight shutout innings in his major league debut for Cleveland. Kelly Shoppach hit two solo homers and scored three runs for the Indians who came in with a season-high six-game homerless drought.
Lewis (1-0) struck out three, walked none and retired the final eight batters in a 96-pitch performance. He came within three outs of being the first Cleveland pitcher since Luis Tiant in 1964 to throw a shutout in his major league debut.
Masahide Kobayashi gave up three hits, including an RBI double to Aubrey Huff, in the ninth.
Baltimore has lost 10 of 11, and has been outscored 89-31 in those losses.
ATHLETICS 5, TIGERS 2: At Detroit, Ryan Sweeney and Jack Cust hit back-to-back homers in the first inning for Oakland. Sean Gallagher came off the disabled list and pitched four hitless innings for the A's who have won four of five.
Oakland scored three runs in the fourth to take a 5-0 lead. Eric Patterson had an RBI single and Aaron Cunningham drove in two runs with a two-out single.
Armando Galarraga (12-6) allowed five runs and eight hits in four innings for Detroit, extending his winless stretch to four starts.
Oakland used six relievers. Huston Street (6-5) worked a scoreless seventh to get the win and Brad Ziegler pitched the ninth for his eighth save in as many tries.
MARINERS 8, RANGERS 7: At Seattle, Ichiro Suzuki and Raul Ibanez each had four hits for Seattle. Ibanez had three RBIs and Suzuki moved within 10 hits of an eighth straight season with at least 200 hits. That would tie Wee Willie Keeler for the most 200-hit seasons to start a career. Roy Corcoran (5-0) got the win and J.J. Putz earned his 13th save.f-b
Nelson Cruz, Taylor Teagarden and Hank Blalock hit two-run homers for Texas, which couldn't overcome a rough outing from Kevin Millwood (9-9). Chris Davis added a solo drive in the eighth.
Ibanez hit a tiebreaking RBI single off Kameron Loe in the sixth to make it 7-6 and added another run-scoring single with two outs in the seventh.
RAYS 4, RED SOX 2 (14 INNINGS): At Boston, Carlos Pena hit a three-run homer in the 14th inning, then Tampa Bay reliever Jason Hammel escaped a bases-loaded jam with minimal damage to give the AL East-leading Rays a win over the Red Sox. After playing more than five hours, the Rays increased their division edge to 2 1/2 games over Boston.
Tampa Bay was only 1-for-35 with runners in scoring position in this series before Pena homered.
Boston loaded the bases with no outs in the 14th against closer Troy Percival. Hammel took over with a 4-1 lead and retired three straight batters for his first save since he pitched at Class A Hudson Valley in 2002.
CUBS 4, CARDINALS 3: At St. Louis, Ted Lilly pitched eight sharp innings and Chicago capitalized on shaky fielding by injured Troy Glaus' replacement to beat the Cardinals. Backup third baseman Felipe Lopez made a fielding error and throwing error on consecutive plays in the second inning, helping the Cubs score four runs. Chicago maintained its 4 1/2-game lead in the NL Central over Milwaukee and won for the 15th time in its last 19 road games. The Cubs improved the league's best record to 87-58. Ryan Ludwick hit a two-run homer off Cubs closer Kerry Wood with one out in the ninth. Wood finished for his 28th save. Lilly (14-9) allowed a run in a shaky first but nothing the last seven innings while striking out five and walking none.
GIANTS 4, DIAMONDBACKS 3: At San Francisco, Eugenio Velez hit a two-out, two-run triple in the ninth inning and San Francisco rallied to complete a three-game sweep. The Giants matched their season-high win streak of five straight while Arizona lost its sixth straight overall and 10th consecutive on the road to fall three games behind first-place Los Angeles in the NL West. The Dodgers played at San Diego on Wednesday night.
Bengie Molina started San Francisco's comeback with a one-out single off reliever Brandon Lyon. Pinch-runner Ryan Rohlinger moved to second on a two-out walk before Velez hit an 0-2 pitch to the gap in right-center.
It was the second straight game-winning hit for Velez, who had an RBI single in the ninth inning of Tuesday's 5-4 win over Arizona.
Alex Hinshaw (2-1) got one out for the win after closer Brian Wilson blew his fifth save of the year. Wilson, second in the NL with 37 saves, gave up Chris Young's two-out, two-run triple in the top of the ninth and stood to take the loss before his teammates rallied off Lyon (2-5).
BREWERS 4, REDS 3: At Milwaukee, Mike Cameron singled in the go-ahead run in the eighth inning, and the Brewers rallied to avoid a three-game sweep.
The NL wild card-leading Brewers, who have won three of their last 10 games, trailed 3-1 after six innings.
Cameron drew a leadoff walk in the seventh, moved up on a groundout and scored on shortstop Jeff Keppinger's throwing error off Jason Kendall's infield single.
Milwaukee loaded the bases with no outs in the eighth David Weathers (2-6) before Tony Gwynn Jr. hit into a double play that scored J.J. Hardy for the tying run. Cameron singled in Ryan Braun to make it 4-3.
Guillermo Mota (5-5) tossed a perfect eighth to get the win and Salomon Torres struck out the side in the ninth for his 27th save.
Brewers starter CC Sabathia struck out eight and allowed eight hits in seven innings.
METS 13, NATIONALS 10: At New York, David Wright hit a two-run homer and tied a career high with four hits for the Mets, who blew a six-run lead. NL East-leading New York swept the two-game series and moved 3 1/2 games ahead of Philadelphia. Cristian Guzman homered twice and finished with five RBIs for Washington, which became the first team in the majors to lose 90 games.
MARLINS 7, PHILLIES 3: At Philadelphia, Ricky Nolasco (14-7) struck out eight batters in 7 2/3 innings and Luis Gonzalez homered for Florida. Ryan Howard hit his major league-leading 42nd homer for the Phillies.
Nolasco (14-7) had an RBI single.
Brett Myers (9-11) allowed four runs in 7 1-3 innings but lost for the second time in 10 starts since he was recalled from the minors on July 20.
ASTROS 7, PIRATES 4: At Houston, Miguel Tejada's grand slam broke open a close game in the sixth inning and helped Houston to its fifth straight win and 13th in 14 games. Brian Moehler (11-6) went six innings and allowed two runs and five hits. Jose Valverde pitched the ninth for his league-leading 42nd save. He stretched his franchise record for consecutive saves to 15.
Denny Bautista (4-3) pitched 1 1-3 innings and gave up five runs and three hits.
With the score tied 2-2, Darin Erstad's bases loaded sacrifice fly drove in the go-ahead run in the sixth. A walk to Mark Loretta then set up Tejada's 11th career grand slam and 13th homer of the season.
BRAVES 9, ROCKIES 5: At Atlanta, Kelly Johnson homered twice and James Parr pitched six more scoreless innings for Atlanta. Chipper Jones homered for the Braves, who won it with a five-run seventh after the Rockies scored four in the top half to tie the game.
Parr extended his scoreless streak to 12 innings since coming up from the minors and left with a 4-0 lead. But all his good work was quickly undone by Atlanta's hapless bullpen.
The Rockies' relievers were just as bad.
Johnson, who homered in the first, led off the bottom half of the seventh with a homer off Luis Vizcaino (1-1). Jones followed with the 407th homer of his career, and Vizcaino was yanked without getting an out after Brian McCann doubled.
Atlanta poured it on against Steven Register. Brandon Jones had an RBI double and Josh Anderson singled up the middle to bring home two more runs. The Braves sent 10 batters to the plate.
Jeff Bennett (3-6) got the win by pitching two-thirds of an inning.
DODGERS 7 PADRES 2: At San Diego, Manny Ramirez hit two two-run homers, giving him 524 for his career, and Los Angeles beat the Padres. The Dodgers, who have won 10 of 11, extended their lead in the NL West to a season-high 3 1/2 games over Arizona. Derek Lowe (13-11) earned the victory.
Ramirez' first homer came in the fifth off starter Shawn Estes (2-2). His second homer came off Dirk Hayhurst in the ninth. Ramirez has 34 homers this season, 14 with the Dodgers.
James Loney homered for the Dodgers, hitting his 12th to ignite a three-run second inning. Blake DeWitt's RBI double and Russell Martin's RBI single produced the other runs.
Oakland 5, Detroit 2
L.A. Angels 4, N.Y. Yankees 2
Seattle 8, Texas 7
Tampa Bay 4, Boston 2, (14)
Cleveland 7, Baltimore 1
Minnesota 7, Kansas City 1
Chicago White Sox 6, Toronto 5
Milwaukee 4, Cincinnati 3
San Francisco 4, Arizona 3
Florida 7, Philadelphia 3
Atlanta 9, Colorado 5
N.Y. Mets 13, Washington 10
Houston 7, Pittsburgh 4
Chicago Cubs 4, St. Louis 3
L.A. Dodgers 7, San Diego2
Kansas City (Duckworth 2-1) at Minnesota (Liriano 5-3), 1:10 p.m.
Cleveland (Jackson 0-2) at Baltimore (Bass 3-4), 7:05 p.m.
Toronto (Marcum 8-6) at Chicago White Sox (G.Floyd 15-6), 8:11 p.m.
Texas (Nippert 2-4) at Oakland (Braden 5-3), 10:05 p.m.
Seattle (Morrow 2-2) at L.A. Angels (Jer.Weaver 10-10), 10:05 p.m.
Milwaukee (Sheets 13-7) at Philadelphia (Moyer 13-7), 7:05 p.m.
Colorado (U.Jimenez 10-12) at Atlanta (Jurrjens 12-9), 7:10 p.m.
Pittsburgh (Duke 5-13) at Houston (Oswalt 14-9), 8:05 p.m.
Chicago Cubs (Harden 4-1) at St. Louis (Wellemeyer 12-6), 8:15 p.m.
San Francisco (Cain 8-11) at San Diego (Geer 1-0), 10:05 p.m.