With three games to go, an upheaval could be on hand in the American League West.
"Everybody said Oakland has been a surprise, but not to us," Texas' Michael Young said ahead of the teams' three-game series that starts Monday. "We saw them early in the season and felt they had a chance to be good."
The Rangers (93-66) clinched a postseason berth with an 8-7 win over the Angels on Sunday night in the second game of a doubleheader, but the division title isn't a wrap. The A's (91-68) could take the division with a sweep, but they also could still miss the playoffs.
"We still want to win the division and get the home-field advantage," Rangers catcher Mike Napoli said. "We've still got to take care of business."
The Angels and Rays are both 88-71, and at three games back of Oakland in the Wild Card hunt, mathematically alive. For the A's to miss the playoffs, Texas would have to sweep them, and one or both of the Angels and Rays would have to sweep their series, against the Mariners and Orioles, respectively. That would lead to a two- or three-way tiebreaker.
Still, Oakland's focus is the division. If they hadn't kept their heads above water against their West opponents all season long, that wouldn't be viable.
"We're just going to try to win tomorrow," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "I think we're best suited just to do that and not worry about all of the different variables. We're in the dugout today and all of a sudden the Angels' score goes up. It's so emotional this time of year, that your thoughts can go back and forth based on one scoreboard change. It is exciting. It is fun. It's a bit of a rollercoaster at times."
Oakland has a 54-26 record since the start of July, and a 69-38 record since June 2 -- the best mark in the Majors -- but they're also 30-24 against teams in the West. Against the Rangers -- the Rangers who went to the World Series the past two years and who seemed easily on their way to another division title -- the A's are 8-8. Texas, meanwhile, is 27-27 against West teams.
"It's been key," A's manager Bob Melvin said of the intra-division record. "I think early on in the season it was a key aspect for us, because right away, we played well in Anaheim, we did some good things in Texas, some places we've had some difficult times playing in the past. It's easy to notice the moves and so forth that other teams have made. We made quite a few moves, too, and they just went a bit under the radar based on the names we traded away, but the guys we've brought in, almost every one of them has contributed here and contributed dramatically."
Oakland probably wouldn't rather have anyone else on the mound for the opener. Right-handed rookie Jarrod Parker (12-8, 3.44) is 3-0 with a 2.25 ERA in his last four starts, and he's 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA in two career starts against Texas. The most recent of those came Wednesday, in his last outing, when he let up three runs in six innings of a 9-3 victory for the A's, striking out eight in the process. The teams split a four-game series in Texas.
Parker's allowed an average of 0.46 home runs per nine innings, which is the lowest mark in the AL and second lowest in the Majors, which is significant since Texas is a homer-happy team. Notably, though, the A's have become even more homer-happy: they have a Major League-leading 110 since the All-Star break.
Rookie left-hander Martin Perez (1-3, 5.03) is likely to start Monday for Texas. He lasted only two-thirds of an inning in the start opposite Parker on Wednesday, giving up five runs.
The Rangers' biggest advantage in the West this season was 6 1/2 games, last through games of Aug. 12. Entering Monday, they had held a lead of at least 3 1/2 games for 146 of 167 days, beginning April 17.
"They're playing pretty good baseball," Texas manager Ron Washington said of the A's. "They're playing their best baseball down the stretch, and they're finding ways to win."
Rangers: Adams up in the air for playoffs
Rangers reliever Mike Adams (5-3, 3.27) has been diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome, a condition where a rib bone presses against a nerve. That causes pain and numbness in the shoulder and arm.
Adams could need surgery, which would require three months of recovery time, but it's not yet known if he'll be unavailable for the playoffs. He's consulting with two specialists.
A's: Anderson could be ready to pitch Friday
A's lefty Brett Anderson (right oblique) is on track to throw a bullpen session on Monday. If all goes well during that session, Anderson could possibly be considered to start a potential one-game Wild Card playoff on Friday.
Anderson's made just six starts this season as he comes back from Tommy John surgery and now the oblique injury, but he's been effective when on the mound, going 4-2 with a 2.57 ERA.
The A's have 108 errors on the season, which entering Sunday, was third-most in the American League. They haven't gotten burned for them, though: they've allowed 44 unearned runs, fourth-fewest in the AL entering Sunday.