(Sports Network) - The Oakland Athletics will try to do the improbable on
Wednesday, as they attempt to complete a three-game sweep of the Texas Rangers
and secure an American League West title in the process.
Oakland, which nailed down its first playoff spot since 2006 with a win in
Monday's opener against Texas, found itself 13 games back of the Rangers and
five games under .500 after a loss to Texas on June 30.
But, the gritty A's have gone an MLB-best 56-26 since and now find themselves
on the doorstep of becoming the fifth team in to win a division after trailing
by as many as 13 games thanks to wins in each of the first two contests of
The other four teams to overcome such a deficit to win a pennant or division
title were the 1914 Boston Braves (15 back on July 4), the 1978 New York
Yankees (14 back on July 18), the 1951 New York Giants (13 back on Aug. 10)
and the 1995 Seattle Mariners (13 back on Aug. 1).
"We're playing the hottest team in baseball," Texas manager Ron Washington
said. "All we have to do is play one game the way we're supposed to play, and
everything else will take care of itself."
On Tuesday, Oakland won its fifth straight game, as Derek Norris hit a go-
ahead RBI single as part of a two-run fifth inning and the A's joined the
Rangers atop the AL West with a 3-1 win.
"I think you'll see both teams go at it pretty hard tomorrow," A's manager Bob
Melvin said. "No advantages going into it tomorrow."
Travis Blackley (6-4) fanned five and surrendered a run on three hits and two
walks over six innings to notch the victory.
Matt Harrison (18-11) struck out five, but allowed three runs on six hits and
a walk over six frames for Texas, which has held the outright AL West lead
since Apr. 9 when it was 3-1.
"We know what it takes to win that one game so I think we'll be alright,"
Oakland will turn to rookie righty A.J. Griffin, who is 7-1 with a 2.71 ERA.
Griffin beat Seattle his last time out, as he surrendered a run and four hits
in 5 2/3 innings.
Griffin, who has posted a 3-0 mark with a 2.51 ERA at home this season, did
not get a decision in his only other start against the Rangers, but tossed six
scoreless innings in that one.
"That's the fun part of the business, you get to pitch in games that matter,
especially this time of year," said Griffin.
Texas, meanwhile, will counter with righty Ryan Dempster, who is 6-2 with a
3.33 ERA in his last eight starts. Dempster, though, lost for the second time
in three starts on Friday against the Angels, as he allowed four runs and
seven hits in 5 2/3 innings to fall to 7-3 to go along with a 4.64 ERA in 11
starts since being acquired from the Chicago Cubs.
Dempster beat the A's the only other time he faced them.
"We started out to play 162 games and now - tomorrow - it's 162," Washington
said. "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."
Oakland is 10-8 against Texas this season.
The Sports Network