Philadelphia, PA – The Oakland Athletics are doing it again.
However, this time around they seem to be making it a lot easier on themselves.
Last year, of course, the Athletics needed to win their final six games - including a three-game sweep of the Texas Rangers to close the regular season - to claim their first American League West title since 2006.
Well, Oakland has proven that last year was no fluke, as it has spent most of the season at or near the top of the division. And thanks to another September swoon from Texas, it doesn't appear that the A's will need any heroics on the final day of the regular season to capture a division crown this year.
Oakland has won 10 of 13 games in September and has stretched its lead over the Rangers to 5 1/2 games after taking the first two games of their set in Arlington this weekend. Amazingly enough, the Rangers were three games up on the A's as late as Aug. 29, but have gone a mere 2-10 to open September.
"We haven't been getting the wins," said Rangers infielder Elvis Andrus. "But, believe me, it has been a lot of fun. We're fighting to the end; we just haven't been able to get the win. That's all you can do, is fight to the end. We're really close to clicking and running off a winning streak."
And nobody knows that better than the A's, who watched the Rangers' late- season collapse first hand a year ago, so don't expect them to take their foot off the pedal any time soon.
"If we learned anything from last year, it's that nothing's safe until we've played 162 games," reliever Sean Doolittle said. "Obviously we really like the position we're in right now, but we can't rest on that."
Maybe it's because they play out in Oakland, or maybe it's the fact that they don't really have the star power of some of the other AL contenders, but it seems that everyone is overlooking the A's.
By now, though, nobody should be surprised because they might just be the best team from top-to-bottom in the American League. Let's not forget, the A's didn't just make the playoffs last season, the took eventual AL champion Detroit to a decisive fifth game in the ALDS.
You want some starting pitching? Well Jarrod Parker hasn't lost since the middle of May and Bartolo Colon is pitching as well as he has since winning an AL Cy Young Award back in 2005.
If you don't believe me, ask the Rangers, who were blanked over eight innings by Colon on Saturday.
Speaking of starting pitching. You want to know the secret to Billy Beane's Moneyball? It's starting pitching. Beane can preach on-base-percentage all he wants, his A's teams in the early 2000's don't reach the playoffs without Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito.
And if the A's can get a lead late, good luck going up against Doolittle, Ryan Cook and closer Grant Balfour.
This A's lineup resembles more of the late 80's teams in Oakland at the plate without the star power of a Jose Canseco or Mark McGwire of course, as these A's are led by a cast of virtual unknowns.
Aside from Cespedes, who by the way, is hitting .373 (19-for-51) with three home runs, 13 RBIs and eight multi-hit games in 13 September games, the most recognizable player in the A's lineup is probably Josh Reddick.
And that's only because of that awful beard he sports.
Stephen Vogt, Brandon Moss, Josh Donaldson, Jed Lowrie and Eric Sogard are not exactly household names.
But they may be this October.