OAKLAND -- The A's entered a pivotal six-game homestand against baseball's top two teams Tuesday, just a half-game out of the second A.L. Wild Card berth.
Trailing 3-1 late in Wednesday's game, the A's showed why this squad is different from years past by mounting a comeback and claiming their MLB-leading ninth walk-off win of the season.
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The A's have to believe they'll be competitive down the stretch, and they do, according to Wednesday's starter.
"Don't sleep on us," Travis Blackley said before the win. "I feel good about the team. I reckon we're going to be in the hunt at the end."
But do the top players on the Rangers squad think the A's will be a playoff contending team? Not one player responded negatively.
"Of course they have talent. They have young guys. They have pitching. Guys are doing a good job stepping up. The key is for them to figure out the grind of the season, the whole way out. If they do that, I don't see why they couldn't be there."
"Without a doubt. The Wild Card standings are all jammed up. Everything is up for grabs. There's a ton of talent in our league, it's a fun league to play in."
What's different about his year's team from Oakland?
"They definitely have what it takes. You never know. Anything could happen. They definitely have good pitching. It's a long season, so I wouldn't count anything out. They battle. Everyone's trying to do the same thing -- win the West."
"They're really good now. They showed a lot of heart. They have a lot of different guys (this year). Their corner outfielder, the catcher, corners -- first and third base. But they always have good pitching."
"Definitely. They don't have the All-Star roster that you look for in a playoff contender. But they have a lot of heart. And they obviously never say die. Down 3-1 late in the game, against a pretty impressive arm out of the bullpen, that says something right there. They have a never-say-die attitude and get the job done."
"They've got a good ballclub. This is a better lineup that they've put together in the last couple years. They've got guys stepping up and hitting home runs, with Reddick and signing Cespedes -- he's a tough out. And the pitching is going to come along for 'em.
"It's anybody's game, really. You've got to go out there and compete, and these guys do that. Like today. They've always been a scrappy team. And that keeps them competitive."
With one American League juggernaut leaving Oakland with a series split and renewed respect, the A's set their sights on a four-game set with the New York Yankees, who are riding an impressive stretch of 42 games in which they've scored three or more runs."I didn't know that," A's manager Bob Melvin said of their streak. "But we feel like we can hold teams down, especially here. You know their lineup is deep and stacked and they have an offensive team, but we're first in the league in pitching or a reason."That reason? Gutsy performances like the three-run effort Blackley and four relievers combined for Wednesday. The result? Respect from some of MLB's best, and if sustained, meaningful baseball down the stretch.