A's know from experience not to celebrate too early

A's know from experience not to celebrate too early

OAKLAND -- There are 13 games left in the regular season and the playoffs are in Oakland's sights with its largest division lead since 2006 -- a much different story compared to last season when it overtook the Rangers with a torrid comeback -- and the A's can mathematically win the division before the end of their last regular-season homestand of the year starting Monday and ending Sunday.

The A's improved to a season-high 27 games over .500 and extended their lead in the American League West to 6 1/2 games with their three-game sweep over the Rangers over the weekend. The team's magic number to win the AL West was at seven during Monday's opener with the Angels due to the Rangers' loss in Tampa Bay, and could fall to six with a win over the Halos.

"That's what I heard," reliever Sean Doolittle said, smiling wryly at the magic number talk.

But the A's reliever also made sure to toe the company line. Last year's comeback has provided a young team with perspective, and the A's would hate to be on the other side of the equation.

"It might be in the back of guys' minds, but I think we learned so many things last year," Doolittle said. "We got so much valuable experience from how things unfolded in September last year. I think every time you let yourself maybe look ahead a little bit, you remember what happened last year and how we want to stay in the driver's seat and everything like that. That's going to help us in so many different ways, and that's one of the ways that's kind of keeping us grounded and keeping us focused on what we have to do each day."

A's manager Bob Melvin continues to preach taking things day by day and taking the necessary steps to ensure they don't falter down the stretch.

"All those clichés, they tell us to say all the time," Doolittle said.

But, there's no denying that the A's are in an enviable position compared to last season.

"We have a bigger lead, but I'm not any more comfortable," Melvin said. "We have to finish this thing out. It's nice to win a series and gain some games, but until this thing's over, we have to play with the same intensity and the same focus we do every day.

"I learned that with nine games left and you're five down that you can win or lose it. No getting comfortable with the lead we have because there are 13 games left. We have to finish it out."

Jeff Kirshman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.