With the AL West title on the line, the surging Athletics try to sweep the Rangers as both clubs wrap up the regular season Wednesday.
After clinching its first postseason berth in six years during Monday's series opener, Oakland (93-68) pulled out a 3-1 victory Tuesday to move into a first-place tie with Texas (93-68).
"As long as we believe inside this clubhouse and we know we can get it done, we're going to do it. I honestly believe we're going to win tomorrow," Grant Balfour said after recording his third save in as many days. "Nothing is guaranteed, but it's about as good as. I believe we can go out and get it done."
Jonny Gomes hit his 18th homer for the A's, who were 13 games behind the Rangers on June 30 but now have a share of first place for the first time since March 29.
Winner of five in a row, Oakland is trying to become just the fifth team to win a division or pennant after trailing by at least 13 games.
"This isn't Game 7 of the World Series. It's not win or go home," Gomes said. "We're going to play loose. We're going to have fun and just continue to pass the torch. Hopefully tomorrow we get our pitching, defense and homers. That's been it for us."
The reigning two-time division champion Rangers, meanwhile, have dropped six of eight - with four of those losses coming to Oakland.
"No one said it was going to be easy," said manager Ron Washington , whose team had held sole possession of the division lead since April 9.
"We started out to play 162 games and now - tomorrow - it's 162. And we'll see what happens. We take it no different than we have been approaching it. We just haven't put our game together yet. Tomorrow we have to put it together. If we don't put it together, we still go to the playoffs."
The loser of this game enters the postseason as one of two AL wild-card teams and will have to win a one-game playoff against Baltimore or the New York Yankees in order to advance.
The A's have to be feeling good about giving the ball to rookie A.J. Griffin (7-1, 2.71 ERA), having won 10 of his last 12 outings. The right-hander yielded one run over 5 2-3 innings Friday in an 8-2 victory over Seattle, improving to 3-0 with a 2.52 ERA in seven starts by the Bay.
"That's the fun part of the business, you get to pitch in games that matter, especially this time of year," said Griffin, who has limited opponents to a .190 average at home.
Griffin was terrific in his only matchup versus Texas, giving up two hits and two walks over six scoreless innings in a 4-3 road loss June 29.
The Rangers counter with Ryan Dempster (7-3, 4.64), who has been very good recently as long as he's not facing the Los Angeles Angels . He lost to them for the second time in September on Friday and allowed a combined nine runs over nine innings in those starts, giving up 13 hits and seven walks. Not counting those games, he's won six consecutive outings while posting a 2.04 ERA.
Including his time with the Chicago Cubs , Dempster has a 2.78 ERA on the road this season - sixth-best in the majors among qualified starters.
In his only career appearance against Oakland, Dempster allowed two runs over 6 2-3 innings of the Cubs' 6-2 victory June 16, 2010.
Texas slugger Josh Hamilton has not homered in eight straight games to remain stuck on 43, one shy of Miguel Cabrera 's AL lead but needing two to possibly prevent the Detroit star from winning the Triple Crown.
|September 28, 2012||Mike Adams||Day-to-Day||Mild cervical strain|
|September 25, 2012||Yu Darvish||Day-to-Day||Neck stiffness|
|September 23, 2012||Josh Hamilton||Day-to-Day||Sinus problems|
|September 18, 2012||Tanner Scheppers||Day-to-Day||Left game - Bruised right knee|
|September 13, 2012||Mike Olt||Day-to-Day||Plantar fasciitis, right foot|
|September 13, 2012||Josh Hamilton||Day-to-Day||Sore left knee|
|September 25, 2012||Coco Crisp||Day-to-Day||Eye infections|
|September 19, 2012||Brett Anderson||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained right oblique|
|September 05, 2012||Brandon McCarthy||Day-to-Day||Left game - head injury|
|September 02, 2012||Brandon Inge||Day-to-Day||Dislocated right shoulder|
|September 02, 2012||Brandon Inge||60-Day DL||Strained right shoulder|
|August 18, 2012||Jordan Norberto||15-Day DL||Left shoulder tendinitis|
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Same chaotic, champagne dance-party scene in the clubhouse just two days later. New T-shirt: AL West champions.
The Oakland Athletics won the division title with another improbable rally in a season full of them, coming back from four runs down and a 13-game division deficit to stun the two-time defending league champion Texas Rangers 12-5 on Wednesday.
"We knew this is a beast of a team we would have to beat, and to be able to beat them three games in a row and win the division on top of it, really it's a magical-type thing," manager Bob Melvin said.
Josh Hamilton dropped a fly ball in center field for a two-run error that put the A's (94-68) ahead 7-5 in a six-run fourth inning. The A's only added to Texas' troubles the rest of the way.
While Hamilton's Rangers (93-69) are headed to the new one-game, wild-card playoff at home against Baltimore on Friday, the A's get two days off off before opening the division series at Detroit on Saturday in their first postseason appearance since 2006.
"You can have all the experience as you want but when you run into a team that's hot, experience has nothing to do with it," Texas manager Ron Washington said.
The A's needed a sweep and they delivered to win their first division crown in six years and 15th in all. They overcame a five-game deficit in the final nine days and took sole possession of the West's top spot for the first time this year.
"It shows how important Game 162 is," Oakland's Jonny Gomes said. "I don't think it took 162 to games to check the character of this ballclub."
Grant Balfour retired Michael Young on a fly to center for the final out, then raised his arms in the air as the A's streamed out of the dugout and began bouncing up and down in the infield.
"2012 AL WEST CHAMPIONS" flashed on the scoreboard two days after the A's clinched a playoff spot Monday and held a wild dance party in the clubhouse.
"I'm glad there's not one tomorrow or Friday," owner Lew Wolff said. "I can relax and go home. I'm running out of underwear."
Players high-fived fans while taking a victory lap through the rundown Coliseum, where the outfield still has a light patch of grass from football in the venue shared by the NFL's Raiders.
Soon, the celebratory champagne and beer made its way to the field - and players sprayed it into the stands. The A's returned to the field almost an hour later to greet fans still gathered along the top of the dugout.
Oakland pulled off another remarkable performance in a season defined by thrilling walkoffs, rallies and whipped-cream pie celebrations by a team that was never supposed to be here.
A club that trailed Texas by 13 games on June 30. A club with a $59.5 million payroll, lowest in baseball. General manager Billy Beane found ways to get a blue-collar franchise back to the playoffs for the first time since being swept by Detroit in the 2006 AL championship series.
Coco Crisp hit a tying two-run double in the fourth against Derek Holland (12-7) and Brandon Moss drove in three runs, including a two-run single in the four-run eighth.
Rookie winning pitcher Evan Scribner (2-0) left the mound in the sixth to a standing ovation from the sellout crowd of 30,067. He allowed two hits and struck out two in three scoreless innings after replacing struggling starter A.J. Griffin.
Ryan Cook , pitching for a fifth consecutive game, gave up a double to Nelson Cruz before retiring the next three Texas hitters with strikeouts of David Murphy and Mike Napoli . Catcher Derek Norris pumped his right arm as the Coliseum fans jumped to their feet.
Norris then homered leading off the bottom of the eighth for his second RBI. It was his seventh homer and Oakland's majors-leading 112th since the All-Star break.
"Ever since Day 1 I've been here, it's been, the A's can't compete with the payroll, can't compete with this team or that team," Norris said. "We're better off if we're down. It just gives us the extra energy."
The A's join the NL West champion San Francisco Giants as division champions. The Bay Area is already buzzing about a possible Bay Bridge World Series like the 1989 championship swept by Oakland, one interrupted by an earthquake.
Hamilton's miscue while charging forward might haunt the to-be free agent if his Rangers don't get past their wild-card game.
"I just missed it, man," Hamilton said. "You guys have a hard time believing we can forget about it and move ahead. But that's what we get paid to do."
Murphy's two-run single highlighted a five-run third inning that put Texas in prime position.
In the fourth, Moss drew a leadoff walk and Josh Reddick followed with an RBI double. Josh Donaldson singled and Seth Smith 's base hit made it 5-3 and chased Ryan Dempster with none out and runners on first and second.
Washington turned to the lefty Holland, a starter who was tagged for four runs in the first inning of the second game of Sunday's doubleheader with the Angels before working into the seventh.
He retired the first two batters before Crisp's double down the right-field line.
The only other teams to come back from at least 13 games down to win the division were the 1914 Boston Braves, the 1951 New York Giants, the `78 Yankees and the `95 Seattle Mariners .
Oakland accomplished this with an ever-changing roster managed by Melvin in his first full season as skipper. They lost third baseman Scott Sizemore to a knee injury on the first full day of spring training workouts, never promoted slugger Manny Ramirez from the minors before parting ways, and dealt with devastating injuries all year long.
Opening day starter Brandon McCarthy took a line drive to the head Sept. 5 that required surgery and ended his season, Brett Anderson missed most of the year coming off Tommy John surgery, and Dallas Braden never pitched because of shoulder problems. Starter Bartolo Colon received a 50-game suspension in August for a positive testosterone test.
Third baseman Brandon Inge needed shoulder surgery last month and prized Cuban rookie Yoenis Cespedes missed time with a pair of injuries in May and June.
And that's just the beginning for a team that traded away catcher Kurt Suzuki to the Nationals during the year after swapping three top pitchers during the offseason - Trevor Cahill to Arizona, NL Cy Young Award favorite and 21-game winner Gio Gonzalez to Washington and All-Star closer Andrew Bailey to Boston.
"There hasn't been a lot of luck involved," said Beane, who received a celebratory pie in the face. "The one thing about baseball, when you play 161 games, you don't get lucky this late in the season. There have been a lot of adjustments on the fly."
NOTES: The A's, whose 14 walkoff victories lead baseball, won their seventh game this year after trailing by four or more runs. ... The A's won the season series 11-8, just the second time in seven seasons they've done so. ... The sellout crowd included 1,000 standing-room only tickets. ... Holland pitched in relief for the second time this year.