OAKLAND -- The Oakland Athletics have a funny way of simplifying things. They take things one pitch at a time, one inning at a time, and every once in a while go completely crazy and look at things one game at a time. Around these parts tomorrow is a terrible burden to worry about until it becomes today. Maybe there is something to that. While everyone else worries about tie breakers, clinching scenarios, and potential one-game playoffs, the A's worry about one thing: Winning. "It's our choice," Grant Balfour said. "We go out there and win then good things are going to happen." The A's could clinch a playoff spot on Monday. They could sweep the Rangers and have a chance to win the American League West. They can't worry about it, and they can't do it unless they keep winning. The A's did just that on Sunday, as they swept the Seattle Mariners in a 5-2 win to drop their magic number to clinch a postseason berth to two.
INSTANT REPLAY: Athletics 5, Mariners 2
They did it in typical A's fashion, by keeping the game close and scoring late. In the eighth inning Yoenis Cespedes hit his 23rd home run, a go-ahead shot to left field that barely stayed fair. Two batters later Josh Reddick hit his 32nd, a second deck two-run homer to right that also barely remained on the fair side of the foul pole. "It's paramount for us," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "That's the way we've been winning pretty much from June on." He's right. Since June 2, the A's are 69-38, which is the best record in baseball over that span. The A's have hit 20 home runs in the their last nine games and lead Major League Baseball in long balls with 110 since the All-Star Break. Cespedes ended the day 3 for 4 and put the A's on board in the first inning with an RBI triple to right field. He came around to score the second run on a shallow fly ball hit by Brandon Moss. "Even though we are young we have a lot of desire to play hard and to win," Cespedes said through reporter Jorge L. Ortiz, who was translating. In his final start of the regular season Tommy Milone lasted four and two-thirds innings but only allowed two runs. He would have allowed a third run but Reddick gunned down Justin Smoak at home in the second inning for his 15th outfield assist of the season. "When you are pitching out there and they stop that run from scoring it's a big deal," Milone said. "It's a good feeling when you've got guys that do that all year long and save runs for you."Milone, 25, finished the regular season 13-10 with a 3.47 ERA. His 13 wins are the most ever by an Oakland rookie. While he wasn't happy with his final start, he acknowledged after the game that he achieved all of his goals for the season. He knows he'll likely be taking the mound again this year. "There's not a doubt in my mind that we are going to make it at least into one of the Wild Card spots," Milone said.Milone was pulled after 85 pitches with a runner on third and two outs. The A's bullpen took it the rest of the way, tossing four and one-third scoreless innings after he left the game. Jerry Blevins ended the fifth inning and pitched the sixth inning. Ryan Cook allowed a double and a single to start the seventh inning, then struck out the side to escape unscathed. Sean Doolittle pitched a scoreless eighth inning, and then Grant Balfour locked down his 22nd save of the season and is now 15 for 15 in save opportunities since re-taking the closer's role on August 11. "We come out of the game and there's not really any doubt in our minds that they are going to get the job done," Milone said of the bullpen. "They have been doing it all year." After playing a doubleheader on Sunday against the Angels, Texas comes to town on Monday for three games to cap the regular season. Those contests will determined the fate of the 2012 Oakland Athletics. If they sweep the Rangers there is a chance Oakland emerges the American League West champions. If they get swept, they could miss the playoffs altogether. Everything is on the line. "I like every guy's chances in here," Balfour said. "The way we've been playing I feel like we've got some good momentum going our way and I just want to keep the ball rolling all the way through October."The players know they control their own destiny at this point, but they are having too much fun to worry about the details. If they keep the momentum going, they will be popping champagne bottles in the coming days. "We're pumped," Donaldson said. "We are going to take it one game at a time but we feel pretty good about our situation." "It's tough getting to the playoffs; it doesn't happen all the time," Balfour said. "It's been six years here and you've got guys that have never been and you never know when it's going to be the next time. You've got to play for now and that's it."The A's take it one pitch at a time, one inning at a time, one day at a time. If they keep doing that, they may soon look up and realize that their time has arrived.