OAKLAND -- When does a tie atop the A.L. West seem more like the start of a rout?

When it's the A's chasing down the Texas Rangers in September, when the music is playing at the Coliseum, when the Rangers are missing balls in center field, and when the playoff race starts feeling exceedingly familiar.

That's how it went yet again during the A's emotional 4-2 victory over the Rangers on Monday.

All momentum kept flowing to the A's, and away from Texas, just as it did during the A's come-from-behind charge to the A.L. West title in 2012.

Just as it's meant to be, it seems like.

Yep, the Rangers, who led the division by 31/2 games only 11 days ago, could end up trailing the A's by two games by the end of this series Wednesday. They might start playing for one of the A.L. wild-card spots right about then.

The Rangers know it, the A's know it, and right now it's hard to expect anything else.

After sweeping the Rangers in the final series last year to capture the West, and now as they barrel toward October, do the A's feel like they have a mental edge on Texas?

"We always do," closer Grant Balfour said after completing a grueling one-inning save. "It doesn't matter who you're playing or what's going on.


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"You've always got to have that mental edge, always feel like we're the best team, you know? Sometimes that's what it takes, just that little bit of an edge and it gets you on top."

Balfour said that with a giant wrap on his right arm and while also documenting his struggle to record the save.

He gave up a walk and a single to open the ninth, said he was "running on fumes" and had no fastball, but still survived.

Because he's the A's closer and the A's just don't get beaten by the Rangers at the end if it matters.

"Sometimes you've got to find a little extra will in games like this, pretty high intensity," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "You end up putting yourself in position where you have no room and you have to make a pitch, and that's when you just have to find that extra gear."

For the past two seasons, almost uniquely in crucial matchups against the A's, that's a gear that the Rangers have been unable to find.

The most memorable instance came on the last day of the 2012 season at the Coliseum, when since-departed Rangers center fielder Josh Hamilton whiffed on a routine fly ball to allow two A's runs in an epic six-run fourth inning.

And on Monday: Center fielder Leonys Martin whiffed on his attempt to field Chris Young's single, which allowed a run to score and gave the A's a 2-0 lead in the second.

Two whiffs, two Texas losses, two A's celebrations.

Texas came back to tie the score on David Murphy's two-run shot off Dan Straily.

But still, this was the A's vs. Texas.

So the A's got a two-run homer from Coco Crisp in the fifth and cobbled together a solid nine innings from Straily, Dan Otero, Brett Anderson, Ryan Cook and Balfour.

And tied for the lead in the A.L. West.

Along the way, premium A's prospect Michael Choice made his major league debut, Yoenis Cespedes hit a home run, and Anderson looked good in relief as the A's wild-card arm.

Meanwhile Texas had its issues and now must face Bartolo Colon and Jarrod Parker to finish this series.

Everybody's feeling the pressure. The A's just are dealing with it.

"Pressure's not quite the right word," Straily said. "But definitely you come out there and you understand the magnitude of the situation. And you're very determined to get your job done."

Before the game, Texas manager Ron Washington (a longtime A's coach) set up the backstretch scenario by also giving the A's a public nod.

No matter how this series turns out, Washington said, there are many games to left to play ... but because the A's won the division last year, they are the team to beat.

"Division champs over there -- I don't expect them to go away, and I certainly don't expect us to go away," Washington said. "Everything goes through Oakland."

Was that, I asked Melvin, Washington maybe trying to put a target on the A's back?

"Well ... if that's what he's trying to do," Melvin said with a smile after lauding Texas, "I'll flip it back to him."

No, the pressure and the targets don't seem to matter in this matchup. When the A's play the Rangers in a pennant race, the results are just about inevitable:

The Rangers wobble, the A's move on.

Read Tim Kawakami's Talking Points blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/kawakami.