Oakland Athletics Just One Game Away from Most Improbable AL West Crown

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Oakland Athletics Just One Game Away from Most Improbable AL West Crown
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Grant Balfour blasted through Texas to put the A's on the verge of title

Do you believe? If you haven't already, you'd better. The Oakland Athetics used their year-long formula of good starting pitching, timely hitting and a rock solid bullpen to beat the Texas Rangers 3-1 in front of an electric crowd at the Coliseum on Monday.

After 161 games, the math is simple: Wednesday's winner wins the 2012 MLB American League West title. 

Not only that, but with a New York Yankees loss, it is conceivable the A's could have home-field advantage throughout the AL playoffs. An absolutely remarkable turnaround, considering this team was 13 games out of first place on June 30.

This comeback is reminiscent of the 1951 New York Giants (you know, Bobby Thomson's "Shot Heard 'Round The World") and the 1978 Yankees. 

Both of those teams ended up in the World Series, with the Yankees winning both times. However, you can't sprint without learning to walk.

That lesson is important for tomorrow as A.J. Griffin, one of the five rookie starters, faces Ryan Dempster. After all this time, why would anyone be surprised if Oakland went ahead and won this thing? 

As I stated in a previous article, there are some definite keys to catching Texas and winning the AL West. In a one-game scenario, they are even more pronounced.

I still think shutting down Adrian Beltre and Ian Kinsler has been the key to Oakland's success. When those two have been successful, Texas has beaten Oakland. If Griffin (and the bullpen) continue that pattern, I think the A's will score runs on Dempster. 

But before I get too far into tomorrow's game, let me step back and give all the credit in the world to Travis Blackley. The fiery Australian may have pitched his finest game of the year, going six strong innings and allowing just one run on three hits while striking out five. I considered him the weakest link of the rookie staff. Tuesday, he pitched like an ace on his biggest stage. Seems par for the course with this bunch.

So here we go. One game under the Oakland afternoon sun to determine the AL West champions. Win or lose, the A's have mesmerized the entire sports world with their run.

But again, what reason does anyone have to think this team won't come through one last time and capture its first flag since 2006? It has defied everyone and isn't a plucky underdog anymore. This team is legit and has proven it. Now there's one game to show it again to the baseball world.

How fun is that?

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