OAKLAND, Calif. -- It wasn't pretty, but the Oakland Athletics clubbed their way into history Wednesday night, and Billy Beane, the general manager who makes a mockery of baseball's so-called competitive and revenue disparities, suggested there's no way to know where this will end.
"The great thing about being young and talented is that there's no ceiling to what you can accomplish," Beane said. "I mean, these guys have proved it the last two years."
Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon and Jason Isringhausen may be long gone from the team that roared through the second half to win 102 games last year, but the A's continued to extend the ceiling by outlasting the Kansas City Royals, 12-11, to stretch their improbable win streak to an American League record 20 games.
A pinch-hit home run by Scott Hatteberg in the ninth inning after the A's had blown an 11-0 lead enabled Oakland to register the longest win streak in 67 years, a feat that should be savored, if the A's had more than today's off day to do it.
"I don't think we can really appreciate it right now because of the race we're in," Beane said. "Even last year, when we also had a historic second half (going 65-17), it didn't really hit you how well we played because we were fighting for a playoff spot.
"The situation now is that we have the media and television to remind you of what we've accomplished historically, but we don't have the time to enjoy it because we're looking over our shoulder at the (Anaheim) Angels and (Seattle) Mariners."
For a sellout crowd of 55,528 at the Network Associates Coliseum, the largest ever for a regular-season game, history overshadowed the race in the AL West-temporarily, at least.
Many in a walkup crowd of 20,514 were still at the ticket windows when the A's seemed to remove much of the suspense from their bid, attacking 15-game winner Paul Byrd for six runs in the first inning on two triples, two doubles, two singles and an array of Kansas City pratfalls.
The lead was 11-0 after three innings, at which point A's starter Tim Hudson, who was 5-0 with a 1.80 ERA in August and is a cornerstone of Oakland's vaunted young rotation, started to lose interest, giving up five runs in the fourth before struggling through 5 2/3 innings.
Ultimately, Mike Sweeney hit a three-run home run off Jeff Tam to highlight another five-run Kansas City outburst in the eighth, leaving history hanging by an 11-10 thread before Billy Koch gave up the tying run in the ninth on a pinch single by Luis Alicea.
There was one out in the home ninth when Hatteberg connected to bring his teammates roaring from the dugout to celebrate the pivotal blast and the history that came with it.
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