OAKLAND -- Their final act Wednesday provided the most thrills, but what the A's pulled off in game No. 162 was merely an extension of the magic they have spun all season.
They stumbled early against the Texas Rangers, only to storm back and win 12-5 before a sellout crowd at the Oakland Coliseum, securing their 15th American League West championship in the process.
Surely it was their most improbable title, as they became the first team in major league history to win a division after trailing by five games with less than 10 to play.
They're also the third team in history to win a division while spending exactly one day in sole possession of first place. That came Wednesday, the final day of the regular season, when they completed a 6-0 homestand and a three-game sweep of the Rangers.
"If any series shows what we're capable of doing, it's this series right here," A's first baseman Brandon Moss said inside a raucous home clubhouse. "We went out and played what was supposed to be the best team in the American League, and we swept them to take the division."
The A's, who traded three All-Star pitchers last offseason, were believed to be years away from contending. They endured a nine-game losing streak in May and were buried 13 games out of first place as late as June 30.
Then they embarked on a four-month hot streak that never ended. From June 2 on, the A's went a major league-best 72-38.
Right fielder Josh Reddick
"One day don't matter," he said. "It's like a race. You can lead 300 laps, but if you don't get the last lap, it don't count."
Wednesday's victory, coupled with the New York Yankees' winning the A.L. East, means the A's (94-68) take on the A.L. Central-champion Detroit Tigers in the Division Series. The first two games of that best-of-five meeting are Saturday and Sunday at Comerica Park.
The A's, as the higher-seeded division winner, play the first two on the road but will get the final three (if necessary) at home. The top-seeded Yankees will play in the other ALDS against the winner of Friday's Texas-Baltimore wild-card game.
Only four previous teams had trailed by 13 games at any point in the season and came back to win a division or pennant.
The A's made their second-half run due in great part to a revolving cast of unheralded players who took turns stepping up on any given day.
One of Wednesday's unlikely heroes was Evan Scribner, who relieved starter A.J. Griffin in the third and tossed three shutout innings to hold down the fort after Texas commanded a 5-1 lead with five runs in the third.
"It's kinda like the story of our whole season -- nothing's been easy," reliever Sean Doolittle said. "We've had injuries, we've had young guys stepping up. You could feel the vibe (Wednesday). It was that same feeling from all the walk-offs. It wasn't if we were gonna do it, it was how and when we're gonna do it."
It was fitting that Moss led the offensive attack with three RBIs. He provided one of those unexpected midseason jolts, getting promoted from the minors in June and hitting 21 homers.
A's general manager Billy Beane reflected on the A's remarkable turnaround.
"We wanted to create a team that had a chance to get better from the first day forward," he said before the game. "We just didn't know where we were going to start from. Maybe we were a little further ahead when we started than anybody anticipated."
A few hours later, Beane received a pie in the face -- courtesy of Reddick -- inside a clubhouse that hosted its second champagne party in three days. The A's celebrated clinching at least a wild-card berth Monday night.
Doolittle, Ryan Cook and Grant Balfour combined for nine shutout innings over the three games. Cook and Balfour both pitched Wednesday for the fifth consecutive day, by far the hardest manager Bob Melvin has pushed his relievers all season.
He tried to stay away from Balfour in the ninth with a seven-run lead, but the fiery Australian was having none of it.
"He wouldn't have the conversation with anybody," Melvin said. "He just wanted to be out there."
Balfour recorded the final out on Michael Young's fly ball to center fielder Coco Crisp, and the A's poured out of their dugout.
Melvin said winning the division allows the A's to be more conservative with Brett Anderson's comeback from an oblique injury. He suggested Anderson might be an option for Game 3 in Oakland on Tuesday, which would indicate Tommy Milone figures to pitch one of the games in Detroit.