OAKLAND -- Theirs is an increasingly recognized tale of remarkable rookies and surprising sluggers and postgame victory pies, of weird and wild young men on a daredevil dance to the incredible.
But the final regular-season miracle of the Bernie Bunch A's was delivered this week by the beasts from the bullpen.
Unsung vagabonds from across the baseball map as well as the globe itself, five Oakland relievers recorded the final 19 outs Wednesday afternoon to lock up a 12-5 win over Texas, sweeping the three-game series and sealing the A.L. West title for the A's.
It was the A's bullpen that turned a jam-packed Oakland Coliseum into a House of Horrors for the potent Rangers lineup. Texas failed to score a single run off the bullpen this week, which sends a powerful message to Oakland's next opponent.
Better get us early, because our 'pen brings plenty of gas and fury.
"It's almost a feeling of if our starters can get us through six, then it's on to (Sean) Doolittle, (Ryan) Cook and (Grant) Balfour to finish 'em off," pitching coach Curt Young said.
When A's starter A.J. Griffin needed 70 pitches to get eight outs -- giving up five runs along the way -- manager Bob Melvin replaced him in the third inning with Evan Scribner. Scribner's three scoreless innings led to Jerry Blevins getting a key out, followed by one scoreless inning each by Cook, Doolittle and Balfour.
"Bobby's perfect timing in getting Scribner, and Scribner's coming in and doing what he did, is really what turned this game around," general manager Billy Beane said.
With the 'pen silencing the Rangers, Oakland's offense awakened in the fourth, scoring six runs to turn a 5-1 deficit into a 7-5 lead. The final five innings were an exhibition of power arms and offensive garnish, with Balfour firing a perfect, 11-pitch ninth for his 18th consecutive save.
"There's nobody else I'd rather have on the mound in the ninth inning -- nobody," Blevins said of the A's closer.
But it's not just the ninth inning. It's been, for the most part, a dazzling procession of outs produced in the seventh and eighth and ninth. It's gaining such momentum it has become a formula.
The left-hander Blevins, 29, is used almost exclusively against tough left-handed batters; he struck out slugger Josh Hamilton to end the sixth. Rookie southpaw Doolittle, 26, a converted first baseman, throws smoke at anybody stepping into the batter's box. Cook, the 25-year-old rookie who represented the team at the All-Star game, mixes his fastball with a wicked slider. Balfour, 34, relies mostly on adrenaline, nerve and high-octane gas.
"It's like family," Cook said. "We're close-knit and resilient and badass."
Collectively, they've been lethal. Oakland's bullpen has not been scored upon in 221/3 innings over the past five games and has allowed 22 hits over its last 392/3. It's doing this without a decorated veteran or even a distinguished leader.
The closest thing to that is Balfour, the Australian now with his fifth big-league organization. A walking stick of dynamite, he has spent this week being energized and ignited by boisterous A's fans.
The result in the three biggest games of the season was three dominating saves, the last of which was punctuated by a fist pump followed by a celebration on the field and in the clubhouse.
Beane said Balfour went to Melvin before the game and told the manager he and everybody else in the 'pen would be available, damn the fatigue. Melvin said he tried and failed to get Balfour to sit down before the ninth.
The way these guys are pitching, let them follow their instincts. Let them stand on their heads in the dugout, if they want, because that's what they're doing on the mound.
"Our bullpen is nails right now," third baseman Josh Donaldson said.
"We've mixed and matched with a bunch of guys through the year," Blevins said. "But we've come together really well over the past month or so. And we know a good bullpen can be the backbone of a good team."
That's where the A's are as they enter the American League Division Series. They're hitting when they need to and pitching because they can. And when the starters fail, the 'pen rides to the rescue.
"It's worked out like that over the last month," Beane said. "And now other teams know it, too."
Billy then cited the Mariano Rivera effect, how his presence all these years in the New York Yankees bullpen has intimidated opposing teams and managers. The G.M. cited the "Nasty Boys" bullpen of the Cincinnati Reds, who squelched the A's in the 1990 World Series.
Beane's point was clear: A terrific bullpen can demoralize, be a difference-maker. It surely was this week for the A's.
Oakland's 'pen doesn't command huge salaries, and they don't need gaudy presentation. They just come in, throw hard and dare you to believe what you're seeing.