Well, that was fun.
It may have not been as thrilling as the day Oakland clinched the 1972 American League West crown by rallying from a 7-0 deficit in walk-off style. It may have not been as exciting as the day Tim Hudson blanked the Texas Rangers on the final day of the 2000 season to send the A's to the playoffs for the first time in the Billy Beane era. In short, tonight's game hardly resembled the heart-stopping, dessert-slinging, Gatorade-splashing action we've become accustomed to with the upstarts from 66th Avenue.
And no one cares.
The Oakland A's did tonight what they had no right doing. Not according to the people who study this stuff. For starters, they won their 92nd game. They pulled into a tie with Baltimore for the lead in the wild-card standings. They closed within a game of the division-leading Rangers with a pair to play.
And they bought themselves at least another game by clinching their 16th postseason berth since moving to these parts in 1968. Playoffs? Playoffs? Yes, Coach. Playoffs. The team that was supposed to falter during a brutal September stretch staved off the mad rush of the Los Angeles Angels and Tampa Bay Rays to become the fifth and final golden ticket winner in the Bud Selig Sweepstakes, AL version. Get your wrinkled butt out of bed, Grandpa Joe. It's time to party.
Coco Crisp got things started with a single over the head of Michael Young. Coco Crisp has gotten a lot of things started for the A's this season so the previous sentence should not surprise anyone. I am paid to report baseball facts, not write suspense thrillers. Crisp later scored the game's first run on a two-out single by Josh Reddick, much to the delight of a rabid Coliseum crowd starving for a taste of post-season pie. Texas starter Martin Perez gift-wrapped the A's next score; his balk brought home Chris Carter to make it 2-0. Thankfully no chairs were thrown, Mrs. Lockard.
Texas pushed across single runs in the third and fourth innings to knot the game up at 2-apiece. Those scores proved to be nothing more than an inconvenience, a delay of sorts to a celebration six years in waiting, as the A's restored order with a two-run fifth.
Again Coco was in the middle of the mayhem. Adam Rosales picked the right time for the "hardest hit ball of his life", a double to lead off the inning. Crisp followed with a two-bagger to left-center to plate Rosales and chase Perez, all in one lovely swing. Coco then swiped third base, giving him 39 steals in 2012, or 91 less than Rickey Henderson had in his record-breaking season 30 years ago. Brandon Moss - pinch-hitting for Carter - lofted a fly ball to short centerfield, and Crisp raced home ahead of Josh Hamilton's throw to double the A's advantage.
Jarrod Parker (6 IP, 3 R, 6 K, 2 BB) kept the Rangers in check for most of the evening, but a solo homerun off the bat of Mike Napoli to open the seventh inning concluded the rookie's night, reluctant as he was to leave the mound.
More importantly, it closed the gap to 4-3. Perhaps this wasn't going to be so easy after all. Sean Doolittle and Ryan Cook did their jobs, with a scoreless seventh and eighth respectively. Then it was Grant Balfour's turn, trying to do what guys like Rollie Fingers and Dennis Eckersley had done before him: close out a clinching contest. Balfour may not be headed to Cooperstown, but he's surely going to the playoffs as he followed his bullpen cohorts by striking out the side in a flawless ninth.
And then, a song. Who woulda thunk it?
Enjoy it, AN! Thanks for having me.