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Dempster fans eight in 12th win

The Oakland A's were nothing but an afterthought on June 30. Coming off a 7-2 loss to the first-place Rangers, they had just dropped to 13 games back in the American League West and five games below .500.

Boy, does that seem like ancient history right about now.

With the best record in baseball since, the A's have stormed back to tie the Rangers with one game remaining in the season. Their showdown on Wednesday afternoon in Oakland will decide the AL West crown.

Just like everyone predicted, right?

"We're playing the hottest team in baseball," Texas manager Ron Washington said. "All we have to do is play one game the way we're supposed to play, and everything else will take care of itself."

Wednesday's game -- a pitching matchup between Texas' Ryan Dempster and Oakland's A.J. Griffin -- is not a loser-goes-home affair. The AL West runner-up will be headed for a Wild Card game on Friday against either the Orioles or Yankees, with the winner of that game advancing to the AL Division Series.

But A's manager Bob Melvin isn't concerning himself with anything beyond Wednesday.

"If we have to, we'll take a proper look down the road," Melvin said. "Our personnel and front office has looked at this thing at every possible angle as you can possibly look at. I will insulate on today, and they'll look to the future, and that's probably a good dynamic for us to work that way."

That strategy of playing for the moment has worked well for Melvin, who is a frontrunner for AL Manager of the Year.

Washington said the A's recent run may end up being beneficial to his Texas club.

"You don't like to be tested -- you like to take care of what you need to take care of," Washington said. "But when you're tested, it brings out the character in you."

For the biggest game of the year, Washington hands the ball to Dempster. The right-hander, who was acquired from the Cubs at the Trade Deadline, is 6-2 with a 3.33 ERA in his last eight starts.

He'll be opposed by A's right-hander A.J. Griffin (7-1, 2.71 ERA), who has been arguably the club's best pitcher in the second half of the season. At home this season, Griffin has posted a 3-0 mark with a 2.51 ERA.

If the A's can complete their sweep on Wednesday, they'd earn their 94th win, the most wins by an Oakland squad since they won 96 in 2003.

Rangers: Adams' playoff status in question
Right-handed reliever Mike Adams (5-3, 3.27 ERA) joined the Rangers in Oakland on Tuesday, but his playoff status -- following pain and stiffness in his neck and shoulder -- remains in doubt.

After he was examined in Texas on Monday, Adams was diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome, which causes numbness and tingling, and he received an injection Monday.

"It's really a matter of how he's feeling and his tolerance," general manager Jon Daniels said. "It's really day to day and step by step. He'll play catch, long toss and then get on a mound."

A's: Neshek family expecting first child
Oakland reliever Pat Neshek will miss Wednesday's game, as he and his wife are expecting their first child.

"Hopefully they're inducing today and tomorrow and everything goes well with him," manager Bob Melvin said before Tuesday's game. "We wish him the best. It's his first child, and we're excited for him."

Neshek, who was acquired from the Orioles on Aug. 3, is 2-1 with a 1.37 ERA for the A's. He'll be available for the club's postseason roster.

Worth noting
• This is the first season since 2002 that the AL West has sent two teams to the playoffs.

• In 12 at-bats against Dempster, A's shortstop Stephen Drew has five hits, five RBIs and a home run.

• Oakland has slugged a Major League-leading 111 home runs since the All-Star break.

• In 75 career games, Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton is hitting .312 against Oakland with 14 homers and 55 RBIs -- tied for the most RBIs for Hamilton against any club.

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