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Oakland beats L.A. again, now even in division standings

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(OAKLAND) -- It was a close game, the kind the Oakland Athletics really haven't been doing too well in this season.

Coming into last night's matchup against the Los Angeles Angels, the A's were just 17-17 in one-run ball games this year, while the opponents from Southern California were 23-18. That may not seem like a big difference, but it really is: the extra games won by the slightest margins often mean the difference between October baseball and Spring Training.

The A's took a 1-0 lead into the seventh inning after a controversial—and probably wrong replay review—prevented them from adding on in the sixth. And wouldn't you know it, the Angels tied it up in the seventh inning.

So as the bottom of the eighth rolled around, it was tense at the O.co Coliseum: the fans knew Oakland had lost three one-run games on its recent, disastrous road trip through Kansas City and Atlanta. Would they drop another one to the always-scrappy Angels?

No, this time it was the A's pulling it out late: Coco Crisp led off the eighth inning with a single, moved around to third base on two groundouts, and then scored on a wild pitch to give Oakland the 2-1 victory.

And just like that, Oakland and L.A. are tied in the American League West standings with identical 76-52 records.

"We can't get caught up in the standings or the playoff picture," A's closer Sean Doolittle told the Associated Press after the game, which he saved with another stellar ninth-inning effort.

Doolittle now has a career-high 20 saves this year, to go with stunning 80:5 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

But Oakland needs to get caught up in the standings, because if they don't win the division, a potentially-nightmarish wild-card game matchup against Felix Hernandez and the Seattle Mariners looms. And no one wants that scenario on their plate, waiting to decide their October fate.

The A's have won the last two AL West division crowns because they usually win close games like this—and they haven't been doing it this year. Oakland was 30-20 in 2013 in one-run games, and the club was 25-18 in those kinds of games in 2012.

They still have time to get that level of success in the books for 2014, so maybe last night's clutch win was a sign of things to come down the stretch. Jon Lester tossed seven innings of one-run ball for his 13th straight quality start, and the A's bullpen did its job—before and after the winning run scored.

The A's know how to win, and while the Angels also have some veteran leadership on their team with playoff experience—Albert Pujols and David Freese come to mind, specifically—the Oakland squad has an overall edge, top to bottom, thanks to the last two pennant races.

In 2012, the A's were five games out of the division lead with nine to play; in 2013, the club was one game out on September 1.

Oakland knows how to win when it matters most.

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