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A's focused on clinching division

The Associated Press
Tuesday September 24, 2002


OAKLAND — Terrence Long refused to pack enough for more than a week, figuring it could be bad karma. 

Besides, the outfielder is sure his Oakland Athletics will be at home in a week to start the playoffs, AL West title in hand. 

Not everyone was quite so confident as Oakland prepared for its final road trip of the regular season, starting Tuesday in Seattle. A sign in the clubhouse said: “Pack Warm. At NY?” 

The A’s hold a three-game lead over the Anaheim Angels in the division race and plan to maintain the same focus as they make their final push toward the postseason. 

Oakland can do no worse than the AL wild-card berth. But it would rather win the AL West, of course, and the team’s magic number for clinching the division is three. The A’s close with three games at Seattle and three at Texas. 

Lose the division title, and Oakland would head straight from Arlington, Texas, this weekend to New York to play the five-time defending AL East champion Yankees in the first round of the playoffs. 

“Too many things can still happen,” A’s manager Art Howe said. “We have the edge, but it’s up to us to take advantage.” 

His players celebrated quietly when they secured a playoff spot last week — and only once they’ve wrapped up the AL West will it be time to really have some fun.