CLEVELAND -- A group of A's players lingered in the first-base dugout Sunday afternoon to witness the scene as the Cleveland Indians formed a celebratory mob in the infield of Jacobs Field.

A 6-2 victory over the A's wrapped up the American League Central title for the Indians, their first since 2001.

Perhaps taking in the moment will add to the A's motivation to return to the mountain top of the AL West, where they sat just a year ago.

"You want your team to be in that situation," A's starting pitcher Dallas Braden said. "Obviously it wasn't in the cards for us this year, but (the Indians) deserve it."

The A's arrived in Cleveland determined to postpone the home team's party until they left town, but they were generous with their credit after the game.

"(Cleveland manager) Eric Wedge is a friend of mine, so I'm happy for him," A's manager Bob Geren said.

Geren said before the three-game series began that he relished the chance for his young players to play in a playoff-like atmosphere. He got his wish, as Jacobs Field was rocking the entire weekend as Cleveland took two of three from the A's.

The A's surely will encounter the same kind of environment at Fenway Park, where they start a two-game series Tuesday with the Boston Red Sox after today's off-day. Boston has clinched a playoff spot but is trying to hold off the New York Yankees for the AL East title.

The Red Sox lead the Yankees by 11/2 games, although New York can creep to within a game by beating the Toronto Blue Jays today.

Boston also is trying to finish with the AL's best record, which would give the Red Sox the choice for when they want to start their divisional series.

"Our younger guys have been getting good experience," A's designated hitter Mike Piazza said. "It's a good learning situation."

Braden started Sunday on short notice, as Rich Harden was scratched just a day earlier. The rookie's struggles as a major-league starter continued, as Braden (1-8) gave up six earned runs in 3-1/3 innings and lost his eighth straight decision.

On the flip side, the A's mustered little against Cleveland's Jake Westbrook (6-9), who held them to four hits and struck out a career-high nine over seven innings. The only damage the A's inflicted came on Daric Barton's two-run home run in the sixth inning, when they already trailed 6-0.

The Indians have two top-flight starters for the postseason in Vallejo native C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona. Performances like Westbrook's on Sunday could make their rotation even more formidable for the playoffs.

"With C.C. and Carmona, those two guys are as good as any 1-2 combo in the league," Geren said. "But I'm not sure what they'll do as far as a No. 3. But Westbrook had the sinker and cutter going (Sunday). If he can pitch like that ... "

Barton, who has started all 13 games at first base since being called up from Triple-A Sacramento on Sept. 10, continues to impress in the second spot in the lineup. He lit into a 1-0 pitch from Westbrook and put it over the right-field wall for his second career homer in the sixth. In the eighth, he lashed a double down the right-field line.

The left-handed hitting Barton is batting .333 since his call-up.

"If you look at all the red flags of a young hitter, he doesn't have any," Geren said. "He's going to be a good hitter, no doubt about it."

Contact Joe Stiglich at jstiglic@bayareanewsgroup.com.