OAKLAND -- Travis Blackley appeared to be the weak link in the A's pitching plans. Instead, he helped his team to within one victory of a division title.

The lefty from Australia held the Texas Rangers to three hits over six innings Tuesday as the A's won 3-1, setting up a final-day showdown for the American League West crown.

The A's were nine games out of first place as late as July 17. They enter Wednesday afternoon's regular season finale deadlocked with Texas at 93-68.

They also bring a swagger into a game that figures to be played before a jam-packed crowd at the Coliseum.

"As long as we believe inside this clubhouse, and we know we can get it done, we're gonna do it," A's closer Grant Balfour said. "I honestly believe we're gonna win tomorrow."

Is that a guarantee?

"Nothing's guaranteed, but it's about as good as."

Winning the division holds more value than in years past because of the addition of a second wild card in each league.

The division champ advances straight to the A.L. Division Series, beginning a best-of-five series either Saturday or Sunday. The loser plays a do-or-die wild-card game Friday against either the Baltimore Orioles or the New York Yankees, whichever team does not win the A.L. East.

The two-time defending A.L. champion Rangers have lost eight of their past 12 and must be feeling the pressure after dropping the first two of this three-game series.

Not that they were letting on.


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"We've played in these pressure situations the last couple years," Rangers starter Matt Harrison said. "We know what it takes to win that one game."

For all the talk of the A's attendance woes, the team has fed off the energy in the Coliseum the past two nights. Attendance was announced at 30,660 Tuesday, with approximately 12,000 in walk-up sales.

"In any sport, at any level, you win and they'll come," designated hitter Jonny Gomes said.

Blackley (6-4), a 29-year-old journeyman with just six big league victories to his credit before Tuesday, hadn't lasted more than two innings in either of his previous two starts. He got tagged for five runs in just one inning on Thursday at Texas.

But the only run he allowed came in the third, when Josh Hamilton drilled an RBI double.

The A's took the lead on Derek Norris' run-scoring single to right in the fifth. When Nelson Cruz bobbled the ball for an error, Brandon Moss raced home to add a second run and give the A's a 2-1 lead.

Gomes' homer in the sixth off Harrison (18-11) added insurance.

Blackley didn't party quite as hard as his teammates after Monday's victory that clinched a wild-card berth, knowing the importance of Tuesday's start.

"I obviously couldn't get as rowdy as they did," Blackley said.

Then he got a pregame pep talk from Balfour, who told his fellow Aussie to "be a bulldog like you are."

Balfour has joined Ryan Cook and Sean Doolittle in a bullpen trio that has blanked Texas over the final three innings each of the past two nights.

Melvin said he was unsure of his bullpen availability for Wednesday.

  • Yoenis Cespedes was named the A.L.'s Rookie of the Month for September after hitting .257 with seven homers, five doubles, 19 RBIs, 18 runs and four stolen bases in 28 games.

    "I don't look at him as a rookie," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "This guy is an experienced guy, and he plays like a veteran."

  • Gomes was named the recipient of the Catfish Hunter award as the player who best exemplified the spirit of the former A's pitcher. The award is voted on by Oakland players, coaches and staff.

  • It's still unknown if Brett Anderson (strained right oblique) might be available to start Friday's wild-card game if the A's wind up playing in it. After throwing 50 pitches Monday, Anderson played catch Tuesday and said he felt tenderness in his oblique area but didn't know what that meant for his availability.

    Tommy Milone is currently on turn to pitch Friday.

  • A's traveling secretary Mickey Morabito has been arranging flights, buses and hotel rooms in four different cities for potential opponents the A's could face in the wild-card game and/or A.L. Division Series.

    Morabito is in his 33rd year arranging the A's travel, and he said this is the craziest scenario he's dealt with because so much is still unsettled as far as postseason matchups.

    "The only thing that fell into place is we know what five teams are going to be in," Morabito said.

    The most unusual scenario would be if the Orioles won and the Yankees and A's both lost Wednesday. Baltimore and New York would have to play a tiebreaker game Thursday to determine the A.L. East champ, and the loser would host the A's in Friday's wild-card game.

    In that scenario, Morabito said the A's cross-country flight Thursday likely would be delayed until they knew which city they were playing in.

  • Reliever Pat Neshek went to Florida to be with his wife, Stephanee, who was due to give birth to their first child. Melvin did not give a date for Neshek to return to the A's.

  • The A's are near a sellout for the potential home wild-card game Friday, and they expect sellouts for any home A.L. Divisional Series games based on advance sales.

    For more on the A's, go to Joe Stiglich's blog at ibabuzz.com/athletics and follow him at twitter.com/joestiglich.

    A.L. West race

    W L Pct. GB
    x-A's 93 68 .578 --
    x-Texas 93 68 .578 --


    A.L. Wild-card race

    W L Pct. GB
    x-A's 93 68 .578 --
    x-Texas 93 68 .578 --
    x-Baltimore 93 68 .578 --
    x-clinched playoff berth

    Scan: Use your smartphone to access a photo gallery from Friday's game, or visit

    mercurynews.com/athletics


    For the West ...

    Wednesday: Texas (Ryan Dempster 7-3, 4.64)
    at A's (A.J. Griffin 7-1, 2.71), 12:35 p.m. CSNCA