The Oakland Athletics are headed to the postseason for the first time in six years. Now they can focus on a bigger prize.
The Athletics can move into a first-place tie in the AL West with the visiting Texas Rangers when this three-game set continues Tuesday night.
Oakland (92-68) entered this series with a magic number of one to reach the playoffs while Texas (93-67) needed one victory to earn its third straight West title.
The Athletics won 4-3 on Monday to clinch at least a wild-card spot, pulling within one game of the Rangers for the division lead. Oakland must sweep this series to win the West.
“Absolutely amazing,” said Athletics manager Bob Melvin during a raucous clubhouse celebration. “We don’t get this done unless everybody believes in everybody and everybody plays unselfishly.”
The A’s are tied with Baltimore for the wild-card spots. They will clinch home-field advantage for a potential wild-card contest with a victory Tuesday along with a loss by the Orioles in Tampa Bay.
The Rangers have dropped seven of 11. They are tied with East-leading New York in the race for home-field advantage throughout the AL playoffs.
“I’m not sending any message. My team knows what needs to be done,” manager Ron Washington said.
Tuesday’s pitching matchup seems to favor the Rangers. It will be a rematch of last Thursday’s meeting between left-handers Matt Harrison (18-10, 3.26 ERA) of Texas and Travis Blackley (5-4, 4.00) for Oakland.
Harrison got credit for a 9-7 victory last week by allowing four runs over six innings. He improved to 2-0 with a 4.19 ERA in three starts versus the A’s this year and 6-1 with a 3.33 ERA in nine career matchups.
“It was a battle for me all day,” Harrison said. “All credit goes to the offense. They scored nine runs, kept us on top of the game.”
Harrison can become the Rangers’ first 19-game winner since Rick Helling won 20 in 1998.
Blackley, meanwhile, turned in the shortest start of his career. He lasted only one inning, allowing five runs and five hits with a wild pitch.
“I’m just not getting it down,” said Blackley, who has failed to get past the second inning in consecutive starts. “I’m not throwing my off-speed pitches for strikes and falling behind.”
Harrison has had trouble with Coco Crisp who is 7 for 18 against him.
Crisp continues to be clutch for the A’s with a go-ahead RBI double in the fifth inning Monday.
The veteran returned Friday after missing nine starts with an infection in both eyes. Crisp is 9 for 17 with seven runs, three doubles, three stolen bases and two RBIs in four games since coming back.
Josh Hamilton went 0 for 4 for Texas, dropping to 5 for 28 with 11 strikeouts at Oakland this year. He fell one homer behind Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera who hit his 44th Monday to take over the major league lead.
Texas slugger Mike Napoli homered for the third time in his last two games and fourth time in his last five.