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Oakland Athletics' Grant Balfour uses a garden hose to soak jubilant fans after the team clinched the American League West division with an 11-7 win over the Minnesota Twins in a Major League Baseball game, Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013, at O.co Coliseum in Oakland, Calif. (D. Ross Cameron/Bay Area News Group)

OAKLAND -- The A's found out they'd won the A.L. West the old-fashioned way on Sunday -- the roar of the Coliseum crowd in the top of the third inning said what the scoreboard did not, that the Texas Rangers had lost and Oakland was best in the West.

Then the A's went out and beat Minnesota 11-7, and the celebration of Oakland's 16th division title began in earnest as the A's donned gray "We Own The West" T-shirts.

Surrounding the flowing champagne and beer and soaked T-shirts was one question lurking in the background: Just how good is this team?

"You tell me," third baseman Josh Donaldson said. "We're 8½ games up in the West with a week to go. Coming into the season, this was one of the better divisions, if not the best division, in baseball. And we won it."

The A's won it last year, too, but not until the last day of the regular season when they beat the Rangers, who at the time were tied for first. This year Texas is far in the rear-view mirror.

"Last year I remember feeling like we stole it," first baseman/outfielder Brandon Moss said. "But this year we are the best team in the West. We are really good."

How good?

Oakland is 93-63 -- 30 games over .500 for the first time this season. And while nothing has been decided yet, the A's have an excellent chance of hosting the first round of the playoffs.

"If we play our game," infielder Eric Sogard said, "nobody can stop us."


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The A's have been playing their game for the better part of six months now, and at an exceptional level for the last five weeks. Oakland has won 22 of its last 29 games and hasn't lost consecutive games since Aug. 21-23.

"We play hard without putting pressure on ourselves," Donaldson said. "Lately we've been hot offensively. We're hitting the ball. And we really believe we have a good chance to win the World Series."

The A's aren't likely to get too far ahead of themselves. After all, the A's lost in the first round of the playoffs last year and haven't won a game past the first round since capturing the Bay Bridge World Series in 1989. But they might have a leg up this year going into the playoffs.

Oakland's opponent should be Detroit. And unlike last year, the A's should have the home field advantage. Oakland heads into the final week of the season with two more wins than the Tigers. The A's magic number to clinch home field advantage against Detroit is four, meaning any combination of A's wins and Tigers losses totaling four would have the A's opening at the Coliseum.

The first round of the playoffs start Oct. 4.

"We'll start preparing tomorrow," manager Bob Melvin said. "Today is for enjoying what we've done this season."

It was Melvin who set the goals for this team back in spring training. They surprised people by winning the West in 2012. This year was going to be no surprise, even if the A's were thought by many to be the third-best team in the division behind the Rangers and Los Angeles Angels.

The A's fell 7½ games out of first place on May 16, rallied to lead Texas by six games on July 29, then went into a tailspin that saw them bottom out at 3½ games back on Aug. 23.

It was a roller coaster. Or not.

"It wasn't a roller coaster for us," Melvin said. "You don't expect to be in first place all year. The season is so long, things will flip. We didn't get ahead of ourselves when we were going good, we didn't get too low when we weren't playing as well. It's one of the special things about this team that it can focus on today."

  • Coco Crisp became a 20-homers, 20-steals man for the first time in his career by stealing his 20th base as part of a double steal, running behind Sogard. Crisp, who also hit his 22nd homer, said "the 20-20 thing is quite shocking to myself."

  • Rookie Sonny Gray started for the A's, went five innings and got the win, although he didn't have his best day. "This is the biggest win of my life," he said. "It's been great to contribute some."

  • The A's outscored the Twins 39-14 in the series sweep, and the 39 runs matched the most ever scored by an Oakland team in a four-game set. The A's also did it in Toronto on Aug. 22-25, 2003.

  • Daric Barton went 3 for 3 with a homer and a double and is hitting .319 since being recalled on Aug. 26.

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