OAKLAND, Calif. -- Right-hander Jarrod Parker got back on track, and the Oakland A's closed in on their second consecutive American League West title with a 9-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Saturday afternoon.
The A's clinched a tie for first in the division and reduced their magic number to win the West outright to one. One more A's win or one more Texas Rangers loss and the Athletics can start celebrating and planning their 25th trip to the postseason in franchise history and 17th since moving to Oakland.
"We know it's right there," Parker said. "It's something if we handle what we do and we win games, it's going to happen."
The A's clubhouse was prepared for a potential champagne celebration after the game, with protective plastic sheets covering the lockers. But the Rangers held on to beat Kansas City 3-1 as the A's watched the final innings on television.
"It's going to be fun," A's third baseman Josh Donaldson said, looking ahead to what appears to be an inevitable championship celebration. "We're going to enjoy it when that time comes. It hasn't happened yet. We're going to go until we win the West."
Oakland has won the first three games of the series against Minnesota and will go for the sweep Sunday afternoon while the Rangers face the Royals again in Kansas City.
Parker was coming off a 12-1 loss to the Los Angeles Angels that snapped his career-high nine-game winning streak and 19-start unbeaten streak, the longest in Oakland history and longest by an A's pitcher since Lefty Grove's 21-start streak without a loss in 1931.
This time, Parker (12-7) went to work after a two-hour, one-minute rain delay and gave up one run and four hits in six innings. He struck out one, tying his season low, walked one and threw 93 pitches, 56 for strikes.
Parker's previous start was pushed back one day because of a nasty stomach virus. He said he felt much more energized Saturday.
"It was kind of a clean week to stick to my routine and be able to do the things I've been doing," Parker said. "It was definitely better energy."
The A's continued hitting home runs at a startling rate. Alberto Callaspo hit a two-run blast during a five-run fifth, Kurt Suzuki lined a two-run shot in the seventh and Yoenis Cespedes crushed a solo shot in the eighth. The A's have hit 65 home runs in their past 42 games, by far the most in the majors during that span.
Callaspo, who came to the A's earlier this season from the Los Angeles Angels in a trade, paced the A's 16-hit attack, going 4-for-5 with three RBIs and matching his career high for hits. Jed Lowrie went 3-for-4 with a double. Cespedes went 2-for-5 with three RBIs and scored twice.
"He's really fit in well," A's manager Bob Melvin said of Callaspo. "When you do well right away, it gets you closer to a team that you haven't been on. It was a late season acquisition, and sometimes it's an uncomfortable feeling coming into a new team that late, but he's done so well that he's fit in nicely."
Twins catcher Josmil Pinto hit his third home run of the season, a solo shot leading off the fifth inning against Parker.
Twins left-hander Pedro Hernandez lasted only two innings, allowing six runs and eight hits. He struck out one, walked one and threw 52 pitches, 28 for strikes.
"Hernandez basically centered the baseball and they made him pay," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Any mistake you make right now they jump on. It's like piranhas with blood in the water. They add on and just keep swinging. They are a hot baseball team. They are really getting after it. They just kicked our butts again today."
The A's took command early, scoring one run in the first inning and five in the second to build a 6-0 lead
In the first, Lowrie singled with one out, moved to second on Donaldson's single then scored from third on Callaspo's two-out single.
A's rookie Michael Choice led off the bottom of the second with an infield single and raced to second on shortstop Pedro Florimon's throwing error. Choice advanced to third on Daric Barton's single to right and scored on Chris Young's sacrifice fly to make it 2-0.
Donaldson lined a two-out double off the left-field wall, moving Barton to third, and Cespedes ripped a two-run single to left, increasing the A's lead to 4-0. Callaspo made it 6-0, crushing a two-run shot into the left field seats, his ninth home run of the season and fourth as an Athletic.
"It's nice to jump on some of these guys pretty early because for them, these are their playoffs," Donaldson said.
Pinto cut the A's lead to 6-1 with his solo home run in the fifth.
"He's a young player and he has no fear," Gardenhire said. "He one-handed it into the seats. Pretty strong young man."
Suzuki made it 8-1 in the seventh with his fifth homer of the season and second with the A's, a two-run shot off Liam Hendriks. Cespedes took Hendriks deep with two outs in the eighth.
NOTES: Athletics CF Coco Crisp was a late scratch from the starting lineup. The heavy rain and slick field played into the decision, Melvin said.
... Donaldson reached base safely for the 26th straight game. ... Cespedes (right shoulder tendinitis) was in the lineup at designated hitter again and has yet to throw since receiving a cortisone shot on Wednesday. Melvin said Cespedes probably won't play in the outfield until the A's final regular-season series at Seattle (Sept. 27-29) at the earliest. ... Twins 3B Trevor Plouffe (strained left wrist) returned to the lineup after missing Friday night's game.
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