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It has come down to this

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Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

The A's were coasting at cruising altitude when they jumped. Then they couldn't find the rip cord, the parachute just would not open, and now they are left hoping and praying they miraculously land in a field of feathers.

In 2012 Oakland was 5 back with 9 to play when they stunned the baseball world. In 2014 the A's needed to go 16-29 to secure a playoff spot and could only manage 15-30. When Jeff Samardzija pitched 8 shutout innings on 9/17, Sean Doolittle had a rare and epic meltdown. When Samardzija gave up just 2 runs, 1 earned, in 8 IP on 8/30, Oakland could not score a single run. And when the A's scored 4 runs for Samardzija last night, that's the day he served up 5.

And so for the second time in three years, game 162 arrives with Oakland's fate yet to be decided. Today the A's aren't playing for a tomorrow. They're actually playing for no tomorrow. If Oakland wins they can take a day off and attack the wild card game on Tuesday. If the A's lose they may have to play Monday in a string of consecutive "win or go home" showdowns Monday and Tuesday.

Sonny Gray. He came up big in game 2 of last year's ALDS, matching Justin Verlander pitch for pitch until eventually the A's won 1-0 in 10 innings. He couldn't quite do it again in game 5. Today he takes the ball in the very kind of game that has haunted the A's throughout Billy Beane's tenure: A clinching game. Clinching all of the second wild card, but that's an advancement from the long round that has been the regular season.

Gray is pitching for a chance to rest Monday. A chance to take the fate of the second wild card out of the hands of the Seattle Mariners. A chance to line up Jon Lester for Tuesday's wild card game rather than force Oakland to pitch Lester Monday, leaving only Jason Hammel available to match up with James Shields.

So today's game does not have the "win or go home" urgency games tomorrow and/or Tuesday will have. Yet so much is at stake as the A's plummet runs out of time before threatening to actually crash into the side of a mountain. No longer is there a parachute or a rip cord -- there is only today's game, Sonny Gray, the team you keep loving, and a haunted team just trying to go 16-30 down the stretch.