A's want to be the ones celebrating in '11
First goal is to finish season strong, stay second in division
OAKLAND -- The A's hurriedly raced out of their dugout Saturday afternoon, escaping a scene exuding far too much red and blue for their liking. They headed toward the next attainable goal on their list as the Rangers celebrated a 4-3 victory and their first American League West title since 1999.
"That's for them," A's manager Bob Geren said. "That's not for us. That's for them and their fans. I'll be the first to tell them congratulations. I'm happy for Ron Washington, his staff and his players. It's a good group over there. They can enjoy their celebration, but I don't really enjoy watching it."
Instead, Geren would like to witness his gritty team hold a second-place standing, along with a winning record -- two feats he didn't reach in his first three years at the helm in Oakland -- by the time the season closes on Oct. 3 in Seattle.
"Obviously, first is no longer there, but the guys want to finish with a winning record and finish in second place and build something for next year," he said. "They're going to play with the same intensity and the same desire as they did today the rest of the way."
Saturday's one-run loss gave the A's a 77-77 mark, representing the 32nd time they've stood at the .500 mark this season. They're set to play one final contest with the Rangers on Sunday afternoon before heading to Anaheim and Seattle for the last seven games with one thing in mind.
"Win every game," Mark Ellis said. "That's what we're going to try to do the rest of the way."
The veteran second baseman has seen his fair share of division losses, but he has also been a part of three AL West titles while in Oakland, thus understanding and envying the feeling Texas was awarded.
"You want it back," he said. "It's been awhile, so you want it back and you want to get that feeling again. It's one of those things you want to do every year, and unfortunately we'll have to wait a bit longer."
Hopefully not too much longer, though. At least that was the general sentiment in the A's clubhouse, where several noted feeling a sense of confidence in landing on top in 2011.
"Of course," hurler Gio Gonzalez said. "That's a spot we'd all love to be in. When you see something like that, it just makes you wonder if next year it could be us. We're going to continue to play hard baseball and see where it goes from there."
Gonzalez is part of a young pitching staff that has served as Oakland's core this year. He's expected to join Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson, Dallas Braden and possibly Vin Mazzaro as the team's leading force next season, one which the A's hope will include some much-needed offensive help.
"With good pitching, you always have a good chance to win," Ellis said. "That's the plan. I don't know what's going to go on next year, but this team is close. Just a few pieces missing here and there."
For Ellis, watching any team other than his own celebrate a division title is tough. At the same time, he boasts quite the respect for Washington, who groomed Ellis into one of the league's best defensive second basemen while he was on Oakland's coaching staff before accepting Texas' managerial position in 2007.
"He's done a great job with that team," he said. "For Wash, it's neat for him to come from over here and to do as much as he did for our organization and go to that team and take them to the playoffs."
The Rangers' success this year included an 11-game winning streak in June, when Geren believes the division saw what turned out to be a permanent shift in the standings. The A's have stood between seven and 10 games back since June 25.
"That's when they separated themselves from the pack," Geren said. "Before that and after that, we played pretty equally. They just had that nice big run somewhere in the middle.
"We arrived in September and were still right there. If we have a repeat of the pitching and defense we showed this year, and improve somewhat offensively, that definitely could be us right there next season. I'll stay to watch that one."