Th-th-th-th-th-th-th-that's all, folks! The 2013 regular season is in the books, and the Oakland Athletics have finished with a 96-66 record. That puts them 30 games over .500, comfortably atop the AL West and second in the entire American League. This has been a monumentally successful season in every conceivable way, and now the next step is to conquer the playoff demons and finally give Billy Beane his first World Series title.
Before we get too deep into postseason talk, though, let's have a look at today's regular season finale. Oakland put up crooked numbers in the 2nd and 5th innings, Sonny Gray threw five scoreless frames, and the A's defeated the Seattle Mariners 9-0.
Oakland was clearly taking it easy in this game from the very start. Josh Donaldson drew a walk in the 1st inning and was immediately replaced by pinch-runner Jemile Weeks, which showed that Bob Melvin was more interested in tuning up for the playoffs and resting his key players than in winning the actual game. The A's ended up loading the bases against the largely ineffective Erasmo Ramirez, but did not score.
Things got going in the 2nd inning when Derek Norris and Daric Barton led off with back-to-back walks. Eric Sogard moved the runners up with a groundout, and Chris Young drove them in with a single to make it 2-0. Seth Smith followed with an RBI double off the wall in left to knock in Young and knock out Ramirez after just 1⅓ innings. Hector Noesi came on in relief and allowed an RBI double to Brandon Moss to push the score to 4-0.
Oakland struck again in the 5th inning. Weeks led off with a soft single to center, which was significant because it was his first (and only) Major League hit of the season. Stephen Vogt followed with a walk, Alberto Callaspo singled to drive in Weeks, and Josh Reddick doubled to drive in Vogt. That was enough to send Noesi packing in favor of Bobby LaFromboise, who has one of the coolest names I've seen in awhile. As was pointed out in the broadcast, his name could be a description of a flight from Idaho to SoCal - "LA From Boise." Barton greeted the new pitcher with a single to drive in both inherited runners, but LaFromboise then settled down to retire eight straight hitters.
At this point, the score was 8-0 after five innings and the Oakland A's were replaced by the Oakland B's. Weeks and Michael Choice were already in the game (with Weeks now in center field), and they were joined by Andy Parrino and a new first baseman named Derek Norris. OK, fine, it was the same Derek Norris, just playing a different position. He actually looked pretty solid there, making a couple of unassisted plays and not making any particular errors or miscues. I'm not sure if or when this particular skill would be useful in the playoffs, but it's always nice to have as many options as possible and it looks like Norris could handle first base in a pinch.
While the A's lit up the Mariners' pitchers, Sonny Gray navigated his way through five innings to lead the A's to their 13th shutout of the season. He got into trouble in the 1st thanks to a pair of singles, and he loaded the bases in the 3rd on a single and back-to-back walks, but he got out of both jams unscathed. His curveball looked filthy and he recorded eight strikeouts on the day.
Jesse Chavez, Pedro Figueroa, Dan Otero, Ryan Cook, and Grant Balfour combined to throw four scoreless innings to close out the game. Cook looked perfectly fine despite a leadoff walk, and Balfour didn't walk anybody in the 9th. The A's tacked on one more run in their half of the 9th to increase their lead to 9-0, and that was all she wrote.
A few season-ending notes about this game:
- As previously mentioned, this was Oakland's 13th shutout of the season. That ranks fourth in the AL, after Tampa Bay (17), Cleveland (16), and Seattle (14).
- Weeks' hit was his first since Sept. 13, 2012. He finishes the season 1-for-9, which is a whole lot better than batting .000 for the year.
- Josh Donaldson drew a walk in his only plate appearance, meaning that his season average ends up at .301. He becomes the first Athletic to hit above .300 in a season since Mark Kotsay (.314) and Erubiel Durazo (.321) did it in 2004. (Note: Weeks hit .303 in 2011, Rajai Davis hit .305 in 2009, and Mark Ellis hit .316 in 2005, but none of them had enough plate appearances for a qualifying season. Jason Kendall and Jay Payton came close in 2006 by hitting .295 and .296, respectively, and Yoenis Cespedes hit .292 last season.)
- Chris Young went 1-for-3, meaning that he finishes the year exactly on the Mendoza Line. Now, when we look back, his season won't immediately look as disappointing as it really was because his batting average will start with a two rather than a one.
- The run in the 9th was driven in by Andy Parrino, giving him his first and only RBI of the season.
Looking around the Majors, the Tigers were no-hit by Miami's Henderson Alvarez in their season finale. The Indians won their game to clinch home-field in the Wild Card play-in. The Rangers and Rays both won, so they will duke it out tomorrow evening in a tiebreaker to see who travels to Cleveland for the play-in game (Price vs Perez, 5:07pm). The Pirates swept the Reds to gain home-field in the NL Wild Card play-in, and Todd Helton went 1-for-4 with a walk in his final Major League game (though he did strike out in his final plate appearance). Hunter Pence celebrated his new contract extension by hitting a walk-off single, but it doesn't matter because the Giants finished in a tie for 3rd place in the NL West.
All that matters, though, is that the A's are in the ALDS and that they have a date with the Tigers on Friday in Oakland. The regular season was awesome, but it's done now, and it's time to look forward. Bring on the Motor City Kitties -- we're in playoff country now.