OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 09: Grant Balfour #50 of the Oakland Athletics celebrates after the last out of their game against the Detroit Tigers during Game Three of the American League Division Series at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on October 9, 2012 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Last season, when the Oakland Athletics went on a late-season surge and caught the stumbling Texas Rangers on the regular season's last day, forcing the Rangers to a doomed fate of playing in the one-game AL Wild Card playoff, it was written off as the A's being "lucky" or "hot at the right time."
Well, now, with 50 games remaining in the 2013 regular season, we can easily see the A's are for real. Also for real: The hatred and the rivalry brewing between the two teams atop the two-horse race in the AL West.
That was exacerbated over the weekend when the Rangers took another series from Oakland — this time on their home field. In doing so, we saw an on-field blow-up from newly acquired starter Matt Garza directed at A's infielder Eric Sogard, and a subsequent Twitter war on Sogard and his wife from Garza.
In that same game, we saw A's closer Grant Balfour go headhunting on Rangers rookie Jurickson Profar twice in one at-bat after Profar had hit the A's catcher in his backswing earlier in the game.
Last time the teams met, the Rangers won three of four from Oakland in Arlington, including a dramatic walk-off of the oddest sorts when a relay throw beat Oakland's Josh Donaldson (the potential game-tying run) to the plate to end the game. Rangers catcher A.J. Pierzynski stood over Donaldson, taunted him and then yelled toward Oakland's dugout while going out to the mound to celebrate.
Now, the teams part ways for a month with the Rangers playing a bunch of cupcakes and the A's playing a bunch of contenders. They'll meet again, back in Oakland, for a three-game set beginning on Labor Day. And believe this, when that day comes, it's on. May the best team win.