There was no backing into the playoffs for the Oakland Athletics. The Seattle Mariners (87-75) forced their hand down to the final day of the regular season, and the A's (88-74) responded with a dominant victory over the Texas Rangers in Arlington to clinch the second Wild Card. Good thing, too, because the Mariners ended up beating the Angels on Sunday; a loss by the A's would have meant a Monday tiebreaker in Seattle.
Oakland avoided one of the most epic collapses in the history of baseball (and Bay Area sports) by squeaking into the postseason. They led the division through late August, and then they held on just long enough through a September freefall during which their offense just couldn't do anything. Their next date is in Kansas City against the Royals, in the winner-take-all Wild Card play-in game on Tues., Sept. 30, so technically they haven't guaranteed themselves a literal October game yet. But they are in the championship tournament for the third straight year, after winning a meaningful Game 162 for the second time in three seasons.
There are plenty of happy thoughts to sort through right now, but I think the first one has to be Adam Dunn. The 34-year-old has 462 career home runs and played his 2,001st MLB game on Sunday, but this will be his first trip to the postseason. Given that he has already suggested he might retire after the season, this may have been his final chance. He's been a good ballplayer for a long time and seems like a quality dude, so you just have to be happy for him after a long career of waiting til next year in four different cities.
Next has to be Billy Beane. He made a ballsy trade by sending Yoenis Cespedes to Boston for Jon Lester, and it was hard not to interpret that as a move to secure an ace for the playoffs. His legacy will already be tarnished, fairly or not, without a World Series title this year, but at least the team didn't fall short of the playoffs entirely. Now we get to see if the super-rotation he built can do what he hoped it would do in a few short series. Manager Bob Melvin has spent three full seasons in Oakland, and he's led the team to the playoffs in each one.
And then, of course, the players. Josh Donaldson is an MVP candidate again, ranking third in the entire Majors in bWAR at 7.5 (behind Mike Trout and Clayton Kershaw) and seventh in baseball in fWAR (behind Trout, Kershaw, Corey Kluber, Andrew McCutchen, Michael Brantley, and Anthony Rendon). He did his best to put the team on his back in the second half, and there is no doubting how hard he plays and how much he wants to win. Josh Reddick is hitting well again after a two-year slump, and he'll get a chance to redeem himself after his big strikeout against Max Scherzer in Game 4 last year. Brandon Moss doesn't have to remember 2014 as the year his slump cost his team a trip to October. Lester and Jonny Gomes get a shot to defend the title they won last year. Sonny, who threw a shutout on Sunday to make all of this possible, gets to further his postseason legacy, if they get through KC. Coco's neck probably never hurt so good, the Legend of Sam Fuld continues, we can continue to believe in Stephen Vogt ... and on and on. The only downside is that I think even the most pro-trade among us wish that Cespedes could be a part of this again. It almost feels wrong to be here without him, but it is what it is. Pothing's nerfect.
There is a potential October route in which the A's could start with a division rival grudge match against the Angels, avenge their past defeats in an ALCS against the Tigers, and then win the title over either the Dodgers (1988 villains) or the Giants (1989 patsies). But none of that matters right now. All that matters is Tuesday, at Kauffman Stadium, against Big Game James Shields and the Royals. Everything else is fiction right now. One day at a time.
Celebrate, Athletics Nation. We've earned it, and there's no telling how long this ride will last. Keep the fAith.