ARLINGTON, Texas – First-year manager Jeff Banister stood in a corner of the Texas Rangers clubhouse watching players celebrate, with champagne spraying all over the place.
A year after their 95 losses were the most in the American League, two months after they were still eight games out of first place and three days after ensuring themselves a postseason spot, the Rangers clinched the AL West title with a 9-2 victory over the Angels on the last day of the regular season.
"Incredible moment, emotional, one I'll never forget," Banister said. "They never quit."
Cole Hamels pitched a three-hitter, his first complete game since Texas acquired the ace lefthander from Philadelphia at the end of July, and team leader Adrian Beltre hit a go-ahead homer in the win Sunday, which eliminated Los Angeles from playoff contention.
Moments after the final out, an AL West championship banner was hanging beyond center field at the ballpark. A championship flag was hoisted on one of the six poles atop the massive video board in right field.
"This means a lot. I have never been on a team with as much heart," said shortstop Elvis Andrus, the Rangers' most-tenured position player.
Texas has won its past 10 games started by Hamels, traded from the Phillies right after he pitched a no-hitter. The 2008 World Series MVP is 7-1 with Texas.
"It's obviously disappointing," Angels center fielder Mike Trout said. "Can't say I'm happy. I'm obviously not happy, but proud I am about this group. We fought. Obviously could have put our heads down easily in August."