The surprising Oakland Athletics became the fifth and final team to secure a postseason berth in the American League on Monday thanks to the Tampa Bay Rays 4-1 loss to the New York Yankees. Now the question is whether they’ll be the AL West champions, which is a long shot given the Houston Astros’ 4.5 game lead, or an AL Wild Card team along with the New York Yankees.

If it’s the Wild Card game, then we’ve yet to determine whether it will be played in New York or Oakland. The Yankees hold a two-game lead for home-field advantage, so the Yankees win actually hurt Oakland more than it helped.

Regardless of where they end up, the A’s have been one of MLB’s best stories this season. They had 94 wins entering play on Monday, which was the fourth most in MLB. Pretty good considering the oddsmakers at Bovada set their over/under for wins at 74.5 in March. Oakland finished with 75 wins last season.

Instead of taking a half-step back as the odds suggested was possible, the A’s have proven to be one of MLB’s most improved teams despite having the lowest opening day payroll.

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Their success has been fueled by relentless and resilient play all season. That the A’s have pushed the Astros in the division and runaway with a postseason berth shows they can be a threat to the Yankees and anyone else they face in October.

Now, here’s a quick look at how the A’s got to this point, and how they can continue their unlikely journey all the way to a World Series championship.

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The Oakland Athletics are going to the postseason for the first time since 2014. (AP)

Red hot summer

The A in A’s stood for average during the early months. Oakland finished May with a 29-28 record, which was actually a step in the right direction. Still, it didn’t appear then that they would develop into a real contender.

That changed during the summer months. The A’s went 17-10, 17-8 and 18-9 during June, July and August respectively, and have remained hot with a 13-7 September record.

It was during that time that Oakland’s starting rotation took on a more veteran look with Edwin Jackson, Trevor Cahill and eventually Mike Fiers joining the mix. Jackson and Cahill were two pitchers looking for a job in March, but both ended up anchoring a young and thinning rotation hit by injuries over the summer. The A’s were boosted by a strong bullpen, which has the second best ERA in MLB and the third most innings pitched. The A’s have even used their bullpen exclusively during some key games.

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A’s slugger Khris Davis continues to be one of MLB’s most underappreciated superstars. (AP)

The unheralded superstar

It remains a shame that not more fans are familiar with Khris Davis. Oakland’s main power source has been one of MLB’s premier home run hitters since joining the A’s in a trade before the 2016 season. Since then, he’s crushed 130 homers, which far and away leads the major leagues.

Davis doesn’t hit for a strong average. In fact, he’s amazingly hit .247 each of the last three seasons, and has a .250 average this season. He does, however, make a huge difference. If the A’s make a deep run, chances are he’s one of the guys we’ll be talking about non-stop.

What the A’s have to do to win the World Series

The A’s will be outmanned from a pure talent standpoint. That doesn’t mean they’ll be outplayed though. The A’s have to be themselves, which is reminiscent of the Kansas City Royals recent postseason teams. The Royals were better overall, but their relentless style of play and constant belief that they could win any game under any circumstances is a nice blueprint.

One thing the A’s do better than those Royals teams is hit home runs. That tends to help them stay in games. While the rotation figures to be shaky, they can shorten games by scoring runs in bunches and backing it with a solid bullpen.

Yeah, quite a few things would have to fall right for Oakland. But they’re always ready to pounce when they do.

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