OAKLAND Following the final out in the seventh inning Sunday, the video monitors at O.co Coliseum cut to a clip of the final out in the Minnesota Twins' 4-2 win over the Texas Rangers. The announced crowd of 18,639 cheered loudly as a caption beneath the score read: "A.L. West deficit 1.5 games."
It seemed to underscore the flipping of the calendar to September, and shortly thereafter that number shrank to one as the A's completed a three-game sweep of the Tampa Bay Rays with a 5-1 win.
At this point, manager Bob Melvin said he's still trying not to "get caught up" in other teams' results, but he does pay attention when the numbers change by the "TEX" on the scoreboard. For the next few days, at least, there will be no need to follow the Rangers' progress from afar they arrive in Oakland today for a three-game series.
"It felt (like a series with playoff implications) in Baltimore, and it certainly did in Detroit, this series again," Melvin said. "Texas probably brings it to another level based on the rivalry we have going with them from last year. They're a game up on us right now.
"That's the one that probably piques more people's interest and certainly gets our attention, as well as their attention."
The A's went 7-3 in their last three series against Baltimore, Detroit and Tampa Bay, all serious playoff contenders, and finished the stretch with their first series sweep of at least three games since June 11-13 against the New York Yankees.
"The fact that we kept it going from Detroit was the bigger thing for us," catcher Stephen Vogt said. "We came out of Detroit playing good baseball and lost a tough one the last day but kept playing the way we were coming home. It was huge for us to keep that rolling."
While the offense broke out against the Tigers, pitching carried the A's against the Rays. When Ryan Cook struck out Wil Myers on a breaking ball to finish the sweep, it capped 27 innings in which the A's staff allowed five runs. A.J. Griffin contributed seven innings to earn his 12th win, striking out seven and giving up his lone run on a James Loney homer in the second inning.
Another potential run was cut down at the plate in the seventh, when Myers tried to score from second on a single by Desmond Jennings. Yoenis Cespedes' throw from left field was slightly off-line, but third baseman Josh Donaldson read it and relayed a throw to Vogt, who tagged Myers on a diving second effort.
First baseman Daric Barton also helped prevent a likely run in the sixth, diving to rob Ben Zobrist of a single with David DeJesus on second and one out. The A's led 2-1 at that point on a Coco Crisp home run to lead off the game Crisp's sixth homer in 11 games and 16th of the season, tying his career high and Brandon Moss' RBI single in the third.
Vogt extended the lead with a solo homer in the seventh, hitting a full-count 95-mph fastball from left-hander Jake McGee just over the home run line in right, and the A's added two more in the eighth on an RBI single by Barton and Eric Sogard's groundout.
Trailing the Rangers by three games when they left Detroit, the A's welcome Texas to the Coliseum with a chance to even the division race or take a two-game lead by the middle of this week.
"We've got a chance right now to control our own destiny and hopefully get to where we want to be, and obviously that's to win the division," Donaldson said. "This is what we look forward to."
Call The Bee's Matt Kawahara, (916) 321-1015, and read his online reports at blogs.sacbee.com/bay-area-baseball.