OAKLAND -- When the Rangers look back on September 2009 in the context of their tumble from contention, they'll surely have less-than-fond memories of the pesky A's. Hoping to put together a strong finishing kick that would knock the crown off the kings of the American League West or, at the very least, get them into the postseason for the first time since 1999, they entered play on Sept. 14 six games behind the Angels in the division and four back of Boston in the Wild Card chase. That was the day that the A's rolled into Texas for the opener of a three-game series.
Over the next 11 days, Oakland's carefree band of rookies, outcasts, journeymen and cagey veterans did nothing short of crush whatever remained of the Rangers' playoff dreams. The Angels lost three in a row Sept. 14-16, so had the Rangers swept the A's in Arlington, they'd have cut their AL West deficit to three games with 2 1/2 weeks to play. Instead, the A's pulled off the sweep, allowing one run in the process. By the time Texas pulled into Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on Monday for the opener of a four-game series, the Rangers essentially needed to win out to have any hope. Instead, the A's drubbed them twice, the second blowout coming in Thursday's finale, 12-3, to give the teams a series split. "They're playing good baseball," Rangers manager Ron Washington said of the A's, for whom he coached 1996-2006. "I thought we had a chance to take three out of four from them, and we didn't do it. We split, and I'm not happy with that. We just didn't get it done." The A's got it done in a variety of ways. Left-hander Brett Anderson broke the Oakland rookie record for strikeouts in a single season, Jack Cust's solo homer punctuated the club's second beatdown of 17-game winner Scott Feldman in 10 days and the A's wrapped up their penultimate homestand of the season with their 14th win in 18 games. "It's a little bit easier to play relaxed when nothing's really on the line," Cust said. "It helps that we've got a lot of young guys with something to prove for next year, too. Anderson, 21, doesn't have much to prove for next year; he'll enter Spring Training competing for the Opening Day start based on what he's done down the stretch. He gave up one earned run on six hits without a walk over 5 2/3 innings while improving to 4-0 with a 2.92 ERA over four September starts, and he moved past Rick Langford's 141 strikeouts in 1977 by fanning Craig Gentry in the third inning. "It's pretty special," Anderson said, "when you think of all the great names that made their debut in this uniform." Adam Kennedy, the 33-year-old salty sea captain of the clubhouse, didn't put on an Oakland uniform until May, when he was plucked from the bargain basket in a Minor League trade with the Rays. The A's banged out 11 hits Thursday, including three from Kennedy, who raised his batting average to .290 with a single and two doubles. "He's been so consistent offensively," Oakland manager Bob Geren said. "He's been a real steadying force for us, one of those real professional veteran types for the young hitters to look up to." The young hitters had their say in the victory, too, although not always by hitting. Oakland waited out nine walks, including two each from their greenish 5-6-7 hitters. Rookies Landon Powell and Eric Patterson and second-year man Daric Barton combined to score four runs and drive in five, with Patterson -- 2-for-3 with three RBIs -- doing the heaviest lifting. "Scott didn't have his best stuff," Rangers catcher Taylor Teagarden said of Feldman, who couldn't get out of the fourth inning, "but I have to give their hitters a lot of credit. They really battled. They fouled a lot of pitches, worked some walks and got some timely hits." And as usual, as they've been wont to do while closing out the season with some of the best baseball their fans have seen in some time, the A's got a little one-man show from Rajai Davis while leading 4-2 in the bottom of the fourth. Davis, who was released by the Giants early last season but has developed into a force of baseball nature over the past few months, followed Kennedy's leadoff double with a triple into the left-center gap, then scored standing up on a lineout by Ryan Sweeney that Gentry caught in shallow right field. "Some of the things he does are just ridiculous," Barton said. "He's a joke sometimes." This is no joke: The A's might have bounced the Rangers with five wins in seven games over 11 days, but they've got their sights elsewhere. "Trying to knock teams out is not our goal," Geren said. "We're just trying to take care of our own business." He didn't specify what business that might be, but who cares if you're an A's fan? Right now, business is booming.
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.