OAKLAND -- For Sean Doolittle, Brandon Moss, Jarrod Parker, Coco Crisp and the rest of the A's 2012 miracle, everything up to this was probably the hard part.

Every unbelievable thing that led to Monday's wild party -- and playoff-clinching -- was done chugging against the wind, against all odds, and uphill the entire way.

Now that the A's are in the playoffs ... could it be all smoother water from here?

Maybe. When you get yourself a tournament berth that nobody thought you could win, you become the team nobody else wants to face.

That's the A's right now -- the post-"MoneyBall" team playing with house money.

That's how it felt during their 4-3 victory over Texas, which sealed a playoff spot, brought the AL West crown within reach, and sent a lot of A's players and fans into ecstasy.

"We've come a long way, down a long road that nobody thought we'd ever come down," outfielder Josh Reddick said, already soaked with champagne in the clubhouse. "We're here to play to November.

"I think we're going to do great -- we've played well against everybody this year. I don't think it's going to be any different, just a bigger stage."

In the celebration, the A's did the "Bernie Lean" and sprayed endless amounts of champagne on each other and anybody near that clubhouse and threw multiple pie into multiple faces (including manager Bob Melvin as a new target) and everything was just as raucous as you could imagine.

They were celebrating the playoff berth--and celebrating each other and the miracle they'd just pulled off.

It was about the 14 walk-off victories, pie episodes, lost players, midseason trades, minor stumbles and improbable victories.

It was about how hard this all was. And all the possibilities opening up before them now.

"I'll tell you what--I wouldn't want to face these pitchers," Jonny Gomes said, glancing around at the A's celebratory champagne-drenched clubhouse. "And I wouldn't want to face these power bats."

On this night, the playoff party pulse began to pound when reliever Ryan Cook protected a one-run lead by erasing Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz--the heart of Texas' order--in the eighth inning.

Then in the ninth, Grant Balfour strike out the side and the A's were in the playoffs for the first time since 2006.

What's the emotion of witnessing that final out? "Man, it's tough to explain," Reddick said. "It's like winning a championship right there. I don't know what else to say."

This is a team with some confidence and maverick momentum.

Whomever they play, wherever and whenever they play in the postseason, the A's know two things: They can pitch, and they can hit home runs.




In a perfect postseason world you would build a dangerous playoff team with other important elements. But if you could only pick two, pitching and power hitting would be the two.

"You look at postseason teams," power-hitter Brandon Moss said before Wednesday's game. "They've got great pitching, which we obviously have. We have a great bullpen.

"And we have the ability to change the score with one swing.

"Look at the Yankees, that's what they do. You look at the Tigers, that's what they do. You look at a lot of good postseason teams, that's what they do."

To be more recent and more specific, that's the basic formula the St. Louis Cardinals (eight homers in their four World Series victories) used to win last year's title.

It's also exactly how the 2010 Giants did it--mixed with a major dollop of near-perfect defense.

So are the A's set up to be a great playoff team?

"We're just trying to get there first," Melvin said cautiously Monday afternoon. "We've felt like we've played pretty well against some of the teams that are in the postseason.

"But that's a whole different dynamic. We're just trying to get there first."

They got there a few hours later, for the same reasons that they could be quite good once they're playing playoff games: Pitching and power.

The A's don't do a lot of other things, but sometimes that's all you need when you're loaded with momentum and you're finally running downhill.

Read Tim Kawakami's Talking Points blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/kawakami. Contact him at tkawakami@mercurynews.com.