OAKLAND -- Let the drama carry on.
The A's continue to be the reason there's so much of it in the American League, especially after sweeping the Mariners with a 5-2 victory on Sunday, courtesy of home runs from Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Reddick in the eighth inning that unlocked a tie.
This time last year, the A's were stumbling to the finish line alongside the Mariners. Now, they're waving at them from afar, their distance to a postseason berth so very close.
Oakland came into Sunday with a chance to clinch a postseason berth for the first time since 2006, but an Angels win in their first game of a doubleheader with the Rangers stalled the seemingly inevitable celebration. Still, the A's enter Monday's three-game series opener with the Rangers equipped with a chance to win the American League West division following Sunday's 5-2 victory over the Mariners, and their magic number to reach the postseason is down to 1 after the Angels lost the nightcap.
"It's huge," starter Tommy Milone said. "This last series is going to be pretty big for us. That was the goal ever since the start of the season. Obviously you want to win the division."
"Right now, realistically, we have a chance to win the division," closer Grant Balfour said. "We got a shot to win it, and we've got our eyes set on it. All year that's what we've been trying to do, and it was just a matter of whether it would be feasible at this time. Now that it is, we want to win it. There's no doubt about it."
A sweep of the Rangers would then ensure an AL West title for the A's, while two wins would mean the crown goes to Texas. Since Oakland enters the series two games behind Texas, there can be no Game 163 to determine the AL West champ.
Over in the Wild Card race, the A's remain in grasp of the second spot, their lead over both the Angels and Rays three games.
Oakland manager Bob Melvin isn't a fan of all the math involved, making it easy for his focus to remain singular.
"We're just going to try to win tomorrow," 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."
Cespedes' presence has meant so much to this relentless A's team, which is 79-46 with him in the starting lineup and 12-22 when he isn't. His go-ahead home run in the eighth on a 1-2 pitch from Shawn Kelley gave him 23 on the year, three more than his mother wished for at the start of the season.
That's third most by a rookie in Oakland history. His 81 RBIs -- his 80th was gained in the first on an RBI triple -- rank fourth-best.
"You look at [Mike] Trout's numbers and they're incredible, but I don't know of anybody that has a bigger impact on a team than Yoenis has for us," Melvin said.
Reddick's home run total, meanwhile, rose to 32 with his two-run shot off Lucas Luetge that came just minutes after Cespedes', giving the A's 20 long balls in their last nine games and a Major League-leading 110 since the All-Star break. On the year, they've tallied 193, which is eighth most in A's history.
Outside of the long balls, the A's collected just four other hits on the day, compared to Seattle's 11. Milone was responsible for nine of those 11 hits, along with both Seattle runs, in just 4 2/3 innings. It was the ninth time in the last 14 games that A's starters haven't completed five innings, yet the club is 7-7 in that span thanks to fine work from a tireless bullpen.
Oakland's relief corps combined for 4 1/3 scoreless innings on this day, with Balfour collecting his 15th save in 15 tries since returning to the closer role Aug. 11.
"I mean, it goes without being said," Milone said. "We come out of the game and there's not really any doubt in my mind they're going to get the job done. They've done it all year. We have a tremendous amount of confidence in them."
Milone finished his regular season having tallied 190 innings with a 3.74 ERA in 31 starts. And though he didn't add on to his win total on Sunday, he had already set an Oakland rookie record with 13 victories, next to 10 losses.
Does he feel he'll be making another start this season?
"Yeah, definitely," said a smiling Milone, who would be in line to pitch a potential one-game Wild Card playoff on Friday. "The way we've been playing, there's not a doubt in my mind that we're not going to at least make one of the Wild Card spots. We didn't start the season just hoping to get to .500. Bob Melvin really instilled that in us in Spring Training, that we're not here to just roll over, that we're here to compete and to win."