OAKLAND -- Daric Barton was an afterthought for the A's after his demotion from the big leagues in May, but he's been a major contributor for the team since his return to the Majors in August. Less than a month since his second stint began, he's making a strong case for his inclusion on the team's postseason roster.
Barton was one of three A's to hit a home run on an American League West-clinching day that helped their chances of securing home-field advantage in the AL Division Series. And he's made 18 starts in 25 games since he was brought back from Triple-A Sacramento on Aug. 25 -- a stark turn of events for a player who had been humbled numerous times as a member of the A's organization.
"This is the only place I know. This is where I'm comfortable, this is where I want to be," a champagne-soaked Barton said amid the A's victory celebration. "I couldn't ask for anything more. [GM] Billy [Beane] has given me every opportunity in the world and I'm thankful and grateful for everything that he has done for me. I'm just trying to do what I can to help the team win and I'm just trying to be me and be the player they knew who could come over here."
Barton has made a significant impact on the defensive end at first base, and his hitting -- a main reason for his initial designation and eventual outright to Triple-A -- has seen improvement as well. He went 3-for-3 and was a triple short of the cycle Sunday, scoring three runs and driving in one of his own. He's hitting. 319 in 24 games since his return to the Major Leagues, during which time the A's have gone 20-4 in games he has played.
Additionally, he's excelled with runners in scoring position, batting 9-for-20 in an area that the A's struggled with early in the second half of the season.
"A lot like last year, when we brought players to the big leagues, we brought them when they were playing well. And he was playing really well at the time. He has continued that here," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "The timing of it was really good, not only for us but for him confidence-wise, and he continues to perform for us."
The plus defense has stayed constant as well. He's yet to commit an error in 32 games at first base and after Sunday has a 79-game errorless streak as a first baseman, which is the third-longest in Oakland history.
"You know if you put it anywhere in the vicinity he'll do the splits for the stretch and catch just about anything," middle infielder Eric Sogard said. "It's very reassuring for an infielder."
Crisp reaches 20-20 mark in division clincher
OAKLAND -- If you were to predict that Coco Crisp would hit 20 home runs and steal 20 bases in the same season, you'd think the stolen bases would be a given and far exceed his production of the long ball.
But at 33 years old, Crisp has hit a career-best 22 dingers this year, and he didn't record his 20th steal until the sixth inning of Sunday's 11-7 win over the Twins.
"That's truly a surprise," Crisp said. "I've hit home runs and in shortened seasons when I've been injured, I've put up decent numbers. But to actually reach the number where I'm at now, I'm very grateful, it is a little shocking, but I'm glad I've been helpful."
Crisp became just the 10th player in A's history with 20 home runs and 20 steals in a single season, with Ruben Sierra the last to do so in 1993. He had one of each Sunday, belting a three-run game-breaking shot in the second inning before later swiping second base.
The veteran center fielder has been a one-man offensive onslaught for the A's of late, hitting an American League-best seven home runs in September with 30 runs, four doubles, one triple, 12 home runs and 24 RBIs over his past 28 games.
He has recorded seven stolen bases in his last 79 games after stealing 13 in his first 46 contests.
A's glad to share celebration with home fans
OAKLAND -- Whether related to attendance, location or its overall concrete aesthetics, opinions regarding the conditions and merits of O.co Coliseum are in no short supply both in the Bay Area and around baseball.
Josh Reddick, though, had new insight to share following the A's clinching of their second straight American League West title on the final home game of the regular season.
"Everybody in this stadium's great. When we fill it up and make the noise that we can, it's one loud stadium," a champagne-soaked Reddick said after the game. "It's probably the loudest I've been in, and I've played at Fenway in Yankees series."
High praise coming from the former Red Sox outfielder, who, like many in the A's clubhouse, placed an added emphasis on securing the division in front of the hometown fans.
"We brought it down to the wire both times," Coco Crisp said. "Doing it in front of our crowd, they've been very faithful to us since I've been here. We feed off that."
The announced attendance of 30,589 alerted the A's players of the fact that they had won the division during the third inning after the Royals defeated the Rangers in Kansas City. Reliever Jerry Blevins watched the end of the game in the clubhouse before rushing back to the field to see the fans' reactions and then to the bullpen to celebrate with his fellow relievers.
"I could tell in the third inning that something had happened in the other game but I was trying to stay focused and win this ballgame," rookie starter Sonny Gray said. "It was special. Knowing what was at stake, it was probably one of the most nerve-wracking starts that I've had. You want to do so much for the team and so much for the fans. You want to win this game."
The A's made sure to win Sunday even with the division crown already in hand, because the magic number to win home-field advantage in the AL Divisional Series is at four over the Tigers with six games remaining. The tarps of the upper deck will be removed for the playoffs to include extra fans, who will be able to watch to first the two games of the ALDS at the Coliseum should the A's hold on to their lead.
"That's very indicative of our team," Blevins said after the game. "That's what we do. We don't ever ease up. We're always pushing forward. We're always playing for the moment. There's no relax for this team."
Melvin not testing fate by altering routines
OAKLAND -- Chances are, A's manager Bob Melvin used the same pen to fill his lineup card as he did yesterday, the day before and the day before that.
He most likely took the exact same route to the ballpark during that span, and it's all but guaranteed that he's mirrored countless other actions as much as possible during the time in which the A's have won 12 of the past 13 games and improved to a season-high 30 games over .500.
Because Melvin is superstitious -- so superstitious that when one reporter made the egregious mistake of placing a voice recorder on the manager's lineup card, he respectfully picked it up, placed it to the side and rearranged his notes.
"I'm a little antsy about my lineup card," said Melvin, who as a player wore the same Don "Magic Man" Majkowski T-shirt because it seemingly guaranteed he'd have two hits on the day.
Such behaviors didn't come about until he reached the professional ranks, he said before Sunday's home finale at O.co Coliseum, and they've grown more and more impactful on his actions since becoming a manager.
"They mount over the years, unfortunately," Melvin said. "They seem to get more and more extreme. As a player, all you can do is control what you do on the field. As a coach, you can't control anything. As a manager, you just sit here and hope and worry. I think the superstitions probably come a little bit more controlling, put it that way."
Melvin's fear of jinxes had prevented him from discussing potential playoff scenarios until the American League West was officially locked up, which the A's did Sunday with the Rangers losing in Kansas City.
A situation involving sewage in Oakland's dugout last week forced Melvin to vacate his normal good-luck spot in the middle of a 1-1 tie in the sixth inning against the Angels. The A's eventually won, 2-1, on Josh Donaldson's walk-off single, suggesting that the area of the dugout deemed fortuitous by Melvin isn't as vital to his team's success as he may think.
But he's returned to his original spot, leaving the other area as a viable contingency plan should it be necessary.
"I move around a little bit depending on what's working," Melvin said. "If that transpires within the dugout, maybe I know where to go. I'm pretty consistent with where I stay."
Jeff Kirshman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.