KANSAS CITY, MO., SEPT. 25 -- Mix some Rickey Henderson runs with some Dave Stewart arm and out comes a third straight division title for the Oakland Athletics.

Henderson was three for three and scored twice and Stewart scattered five hits as the A's clinched the American League West with a 5-0 victory over the Kansas City Royals tonight.

"He makes the runs; we call them Rickey runs," Manager Tony La Russa said. "He's been doing it all year. I'm just glad people had a chance to see it tonight."

The A's title is anything but old hat to La Russa.

"Every time it gets better," he said. "You think of all the combinations, of all the ways it can go. The Twins always play hard. They did their part {Minnesota beat Chicago} and we did our part."

The A's have a nine-game lead over the White Sox with eight to play. Oakland, which has won the last two AL pennants, became the first team since 1978 to win three straight division titles. The New York Yankees, Royals and Philadelphia Phillies won consecutive titles from 1976 to '78.

Stewart won a career-high 22nd game and has four straight seasons of 21 or more victories. He won clinching games in the AL Championship Series and the World Series last year and was on the mound when the Athletics clinched the 1988 division title.

"This is just a first step," he said. "We can't be too happy."

A long-standing baseball tradition was broken when champagne was banned from the clubhouse by league president Bobby Brown. In response, the A's quickly left the main part of the clubhouse and secreted themselves in a closed area to celebrate.

Stewart struck out six and walked two in pitching his 10th complete game and fourth shutout.

Henderson singled in the seventh, stole second and scored the A's third run on Harold Baines's single. Henderson has 63 stolen bases and 934 in his career, four behind Lou Brock's all-time record.

Twins 4, White Sox 3: Minnesota won in Chicago on Gary Gaetti's three-run homer and Shane Mack's RBI single in the fifth.

Although they were eliminated from the AL West race, the White Sox turned their season around from last year's 69-72 finish. They are 89-65.