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OAKLAND — Certain life mysteries are impossible to explain. Like what's on the other side of the universe? How does the Holy Trinity work? Why is New York pizza so much better than the California stuff?

But the biggest life mystery of all concerns the Oakland A's. Why is this team, a group with no superstar, a bargain bunch without the best players in the majors, running away from the AL West? And why, in short, are the A's one of the elite outfits in baseball?

You got me.

It's not like they can hit. Lately, Josh Donaldson is pathetic — he struck out three times in Sunday's 10-6 win over the fallen Los Angeles Angels, and he hasn't gotten a base hit since the medieval period.

And Josh Reddick has been beyond pathetic.

And the pitching is good but not always great. Starter Jarrod Parker gave up five runs in the first two innings and that meant the A's started the day spotting the Angels a five-run lead, an unusual strategy.

But the A's overcame the Angels, chased them down, broke their spirit. You could see it happen, the Angels' outfielders losing balls in the sun, the outfielders rolling on the grass, the outfielders running into each other like junk cars in a demolition derby.

The A's were a half game behind the then division-leading Texas Rangers on July 2, and now they are six up on the Rangers. They are a gargantuan 19 games over .500.

It's mystifying.

Sure, you could give reasons. The A's are scrappy — whatever "scrappy" means. They are confident and confidence is always good. And if you want to be technical about things, they draw walks and make pitchers work.

That all sounds so bland, so vague. In the interest of clarity — if clarity is possible — let's turn to manager Bob Melvin and hear what he said in his postgame news conference: "I didn't for one minute think that we were down 5-0 and we were not going to come back and do something. It's tough to come back from a five-run lead, but these guys are pretty relentless. I, at least, expected some kind of a push. I got more than you could ever hope for."

OK, the A's are relentless. Relentless helps.

What else?

Melvin and I spoke in the hall outside his office.

Cohn: "You don't have the best players. You have very good players, I'm not putting them down. But you have a hell of a team."

Melvin: "That's the operative word."

Cohn: "Team?"

Melvin: "Yeah."

Cohn: "What does team mean to you?"

Melvin: "Nobody feels like they have to be The Guy. And no one's afraid to pass the baton on to the next guy. We've put that feeling together since the All-Star break from last year. And it remains and it's part of who we are, and there's nobody here that feels he has to be The Guy."

Cohn: "Some guys at other teams play every single day. The catcher at the Giants mostly plays every single day. Guys here would like to play every day but respect and appreciate being in and out of the lineup."

Melvin: "They all want to be everyday players. But they understand the roles they are in. If you communicate that to them some guys might not like it, but they understand and they know how to prepare for that role. That's what we have is a bunch of those guys here. Now, (Jed) Lowrie plays every day, (Josh) Donaldson plays every day, Coco (Crisp) plays every day, (Yoenis) Cespedes plays every day and (Josh) Reddick. It's the other four spots we mix and match."

OK, got that? Maybe we're nudging closer to understanding. The A's team is better than its parts. The A's are a monument to the concept ofteam in an age of individualists. The A's have an intangible which we'll call the IT Factor.

Second baseman Eric Sogard — second is one of Melvin's platoon positions — embodies the It Factor. He had three hits on Sunday, two RBIs and he scored two runs. With those oversized glasses that look like high-beam headlights on a Mack Truck he reminds you of a librarian or a cost accountant. You'd never take him for a ballplayer. His teammates call him Sogie and, whenever he returns to the dugout after scoring a run, they form circles with their thumbs and pointer fingers and place those circles over their eyes to indicate Sogard wears big glasses or is just a plain four-eyes. It's a gesture of affection.

Here's Sogard on who the A's are: "You never know who's going to be the hero that day. You put nine guys out there working together and we're going to beat that team with the one big guy."

Actually, the Angels have two big guys now that Albert Pujols, their biggest guy, is on the Disabled List. Mike Trout, their current big fish — sorry, I couldn't help myself — struck out swinging to murder an Angels' rally in the sixth, and got exactly no hits. And Josh Hamilton, a total dud for the Anaheims, sleepwalked through five hitless at bats, striking out three times.

Which means the Angels have big guys but lack the IT Factor while the A's have It in spades.

And there's one other factor. Bob Melvin. Looked at a certain way, he's the A's star. My axiom is a manager wins games. It's hard to say how many. Melvin's predecessor Bob Geren lost games. Melvin lets everyone know his role. He springs no surprises. He treats A's players with respect and they respect him and that translates into wins.

A's ownership long ago gave up on the City of Oakland and, for a while, it gave up on the team. And now the A's are special, and the under-publicized, under-appreciated A's have a shot at attracting 2 million fans this season. That's not colossal — not Dodgers-like — but it's not chopped liver, either. Call it a spontaneous movement of the people which qualifies as part of the It Factor. Long live It.

For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at lowell.cohn@pressdemocrat.com.