OAKLAND -- Even a two-hour, one-minute rain delay couldn't dampen the sense of postseason inevitability surrounding the A's on Saturday as Oakland beat the Minnesota Twins 9-1 to reduce its magic number to one to claim the American League West title.
The A's could have clinched outright if the Texas Rangers had lost in Kansas City, but after the A's finished off Minnesota, the Rangers put away the Royals.
Oakland can lay claim to its 16th A.L. West title Sunday with a victory in the series finale against the Twins or if the Rangers lose in Kansas City. Only the New York Yankees (18) and Atlanta Braves (16) have won as many division titles.
"This is the first step for us," Yoenis Cespedes said through interpreter Ariel Prieto of sewing up the West, "the first step if we want to go to the playoffs."
The D.H., unable to play left field for the moment thanks to shoulder problems, singled, homered and drove in three runs to support Jarrod Parker's 12th win of the season. Cespedes has come up huge in September with 19 RBIs in 18 games, and six homers, including one in each of his last three games.
"He's the big presence in the middle of the lineup," manager Bob Melvin said. "And when he's swinging the bat well it makes everybody better throughout the lineup. He makes you feel like you don't have to do too much.
"This month he's been really good, driving the ball, hitting the ball the other way, the home runs ... all the things that we're used to seeing him do."
The A's offensive surge this month is a major reason they're on the precipice of a second consecutive A.L. West title, and Cespedes, who has had a disappointing season overall with a .245 average, is a primary focus of Oakland's success.
Another is Josh Donaldson, who singled and doubled in his first two at-bats and has a .397 average for the month, including 10 multiple-hit games, the last three in succession. The A's fans were vocal in their support of him, chanting "M-V-P! M-V-P!" in each of his final two at-bats.
"It's nice to have the respect of the fans," the A's third baseman said. "I couldn't ask for more from the fans here. Before the All-Star break they were pushing for me (to be included on the team; he wasn't)."
While Donaldson is every bit as eager to get the A.L. West title back in Oakland's possession as is Cespedes, he talked about the need for the A's to finish the season strong.
"The most important part is bringing it home, continuing to play well," he said. "We don't want to go into the playoffs playing bad."
That could happen, of course, but right now the A's are playing as well as any team in baseball. Oakland is 15-5 this month with seven games left to play. As a team Oakland is hitting .295 while the pitchers have a 2.93 ERA.
And then there are the home runs. Oakland hit three Saturday -- one each by Alberto Callaspo, Kurt Suzuki and Cespedes -- and have hit 33 for the month. Only in August, when the A's began their current home run tear, did they hit more (35).
"The home runs take a little bit of the pressure off," Parker said after his 10th win in his last 11 decisions.
Parker allowed the Twins just four base runners, one of those a homer by Josmil Pinto, before turning the game over to the bullpen after six innings. It was a return to Parker's norm after he'd lost his last time out to the Los Angeles Angels, knocked out in the fifth inning. He's been on a major second-half run, allowing two runs or less in 11 of 15 starts dating back to June 29.
But only the team result matters.
"We can smell (the title)," Parker said.
W L GB
A's 92 63 --
Texas 84 70 7
Minnesota (Cole De Vries 0-0) at A's (Sonny Gray 3-3), 1:05 p.m. CSNCA