They said it couldn't be done. Most of us thought it couldn't be done. But the most fun A's team, possibly ever, has completed their storybook season by winning the AL West in Game 162, and are now heading to the playoffs.
There isn't a recap in the world that could possibly express the elation, sheer shock, joy, contentment, happiness, and satisfaction on the face of every single A's fan around the world tonight, as the A's beat the Rangers in a winner-take-all slugfest at the Coliseum in front of a sold-out, sun-drenched, raucous crowd that willed the A's to one last victory this season, and gave the A's their second champagne shower in three days. The A's, who were 13 games behind the Rangers on June 30th and 2 games behind the Rangers going into this final home series, managed to do the impossible; the improbable, and the incredible: As the Rangers were waiting for the one win that would clinch the AL West Crown, the A's never let that happen; instead they stole the AL West Crown for themselves. The first-place A's is a new term this year, but when all the smoke has cleared, that's how 2012 will go into the record books. And with this year's rule change, the win couldn't be bigger; it's the difference between a 5-game series and a 1-game playoff. With all the talk of the second wild card, the A's proved they didn't need it after all; this is a legitimate playoff contending team. Picked to lose over 100 games before the season ever started, and seemingly confirming that belief in April and May, the A's end up finishing 94-68, and I hear wedding bells with Miss .580; her heart was won by a six-game winning streak to close the season.
Honestly, no disrespect to the playoffs, and I'm obviously thrilled we are going, but no matter what, I think that this 162 game season is the real story for the 2012 Oakland A's. From absolute despair at points during the season, to utter elation today, this is the best moment I've ever had as an A's fan, and that includes one World Series and multiple playoff wins. We were handed a team made up entirely of rookies, and players that no one else wanted, with one lone potential star, while our traded players shined in their new cities and the Angels and Rangers stocked up for the season. To beat out not only the Angels, but also the Rangers, is literally the most incredible baseball story ever written. For this is the true Moneyball team, or Major League, if you prefer. There is no high-priced talent; no Mulder, Zito, Hudson. No one outside of this website can name our five starting pitchers, and just about the entire team is playing out of their original positions. The team itself isn't even static; most positions are patrolled by platoon players. For the A's to put that kind of team together and win the West, beating out the lineups and pitching staffs of the Angels and Rangers is better than Christmas. The best fairy tale ever. The best. day. ever.
Do we really care how we got here? Of course we do, because it in itself, is a miracle. The game ended up being a runaway, but never forget that this team was down 5-1 to the Rangers in the fourth today after another A's starter came up with a shortened outing. With the bullpen absolutely taxed, it could ill-afford a 2.2 inning start from Griffin (and even that was probably too long), but that's what we got. After the A's plated one in the first on a double by Moss (and Reddick left a runner on third), the Rangers dropped five on Griffin in the third, knocking him out of the game. Lesser teams would have given up and taken the Wild Card, but game-winner Evan Scribner saved the entire game with his three scoreless innings to give the A's a chance to come back.
And come back they did. Moss walked, and Reddick singled him in to cut the score to 5-2, while Smith singled in Reddick, knocking out starting pitcher Ryan Dempster. After two were out, Coco Crisp came up, with the Coliseum crowd absolutely rocking, as they were most of the day, and tied the game with a double.
Then the baseball gods paid us back in spades for that Saturday six-hour New York loss, that had ripped out our hearts at one time, but now just seems to be the bitter complement to the sweet, sweet victory that is today's. With two runners on, Cespedes hit a routine fly ball to center field--and Josh Hamilton just dropped it. Just dropped it. Both runs scored to give the A's the 7-5 lead, and from that moment on, the Rangers had lost the game, and everybody knew it. Gravy runs were tacked on from a Derek Norris single, a Derek Norris homerun and the final nail in the coffin; a bases-clearing, 3-run double from Brandon Moss. Despite the bullpen's heavy burden this week, all of them told their manager they were available and wanted to pitch. Melvin said it gave him goosebumps.
Jerry Blevins recorded an out, and pitching on his fifth day in a row, Ryan Cook pitched a near-perfect seventh, Doolittle, on his fourth day in a row, and fifth out of sixth, threw the near-perfect eighth, and Grant Balfour, also pitching in his fifth consecutive game, closed out a perfect ninth to give the A's the AL West, and send the Rangers to Friday's one-game Wild Card playoff.
With the Yankees' huge lead, it looks like the A's will go to Detroit, to play the Tigers on Saturday. I would say we owe them one. The game is at 6PM Eastern time, and Game #2 will be on Sunday before the series returns to Oakland Wed-Thurs-Fri. Anyone up for a roadtrip? ;-)
But tonight is not about the playoffs. Tonight is to celebrate one of the best, most exciting, most fun, most entertaining 162 game season in Oakland A's history.
Enjoy the hell out of it. Go crazy, folks, go crazy! Your 2012 Oakland A's are truly magical.