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Oakland A’s clinch 2018 Wild Card berth

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The 2018 A’s are going to the postseason!

That’s Lowrie under there.
Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Never in my wildest dreams.

Entering 2018, I didn’t think there was any chance that the Oakland A’s could make the postseason. And yet, on Monday night they punched that very ticket by clinching a Wild Card berth. The A’s are going to the playoffs.

Oakland won their game against the Mariners Monday night, but they didn’t even need to do that. Shortly after they began playing in Seattle, the Tampa Bay Rays lost their own game on the East Coast, sinking them far enough behind in the standings that they mathematically couldn’t catch up. That the green and gold also triumphed later in the evening was just a cherry on top, avoiding the awkward situation of celebrating after a loss.

This summer the A’s were coming off three straight last-place finishes. The starting rotation looked like a huge question mark, and indeed it fell apart over and over as the season progressed. But somehow they pieced it together for six months, all while the promising lineup exploded into one of the elite units in the sport and the bullpen stepped forward to deliver a historically great effort.

We last saw the postseason in 2014, and it did not go well. That Wild Card game is etched into our nightmares for the rest of time, wedged between the gut-punching second-half collapse that preceded it and the soul-crushing fire-sale rebuild that came next. It’s been a tough few years for the A’s faithful, even compared with the repeated October disappointments we’ve witnessed over the nearly 30 years since the team’s last championship.

Now the A’s will get their next chance. Maybe it will be here in Oakland, but more likely it will be in New York. Either way it will take place against the Yankees on Wednesday, Oct. 3, and the winner will meet the Red Sox in the ALDS. And remember, even though Boston has won 106 games this year, the A’s have baseball’s best record since the All-Star break (40-20) and also since mid-June (60-26). No one wants to play this team right now.

Looking back on the journey (so far)

After an offseason filled with accusations of collusion by cheap owners around the league, the A’s and three other teams (who all receive revenue-sharing dollars) were singled out in a grievance by the Players Association for allegedly not spending enough money. Nothing came out of that complaint, but here’s what came out of Oakland’s supposedly non-competitive payroll:

To see the next teams on the list, here’s Buster Olney.

And the other clubs in the grievance? The Rays are the ones that Oakland just eliminated, and they’ll probably win 90 games; the Pirates are above .500; and the Marlins, well, yeah, they might deserve a grievance, but I’ll at least give the new owners a chance to prove themselves first.

The season started slowly for Oakland, much like it had during the similarly magical 2012 campaign, and once again in June they took off and never really came back to Earth.

Perhaps it’s fitting that the clinch ultimately came in Seattle. For the first half of the season this playoff spot looked like it belonged to the Mariners, but just as the A’s got hot the M’s fell apart. They had injuries, they lost their superstar to a PED suspension, and the whole season just went as Mariners as possible. If you don’t feel at least a little sorry for them then you’re a monster, but they’re still our division rival so you’re forgiven for sneaking a smile over the fact that there was at least a champagne celebration at Safeco this year.

This latest postseason berth also breaks an important all-time tie.

The championships are already 9-8 in favor of the A’s, in case you needed a reminder.

The celebration

It began with the happy kind of Hug Watch.

And then ...

... Pandemonium.

For some excellent photos, check out Susan Slusser of the S.F. Chronicle, and the A’s official account.

Of course, there were post-game quotes. Here are some of the best:

Regarding that last tweet: The A’s last playoff season in 2014 was marked, among other things, by their trade for Jeff Samardzija. They paid a steep price for him but he never even got to pitch in the postseason, and over the next winter they flipped the final year of his contract for a package of players. Three of them are still in Oakland, including the team’s starting shortstop, who in 2018 outplayed the supposed wunderkind (Addison Russell) who had been controversially dealt for Samardzija in the first place.

Chris Bassitt, Marcus Semien, Josh Phegley

But that’s just one story among so, so many in this clubhouse — like FaceTiming the absent-but-not-forgotten Sean Manaea, and the success of Bay Area native Mark Canha. There are too many to fit in this one post, so for now here’s the whole group.

And of course, a baseball team is nothing without its fans. Chaptain America was there to make sure we all got a taste.

Soak it in, Athletics Nation. The A’s are in the playoffs, and they’re doing so as the hottest team in the league and as the darlings of the sport. If you want to know the definition of a Team Of Destiny, then you’re watching it play out right now. The next step is to do what the last couple decades of Oakland clubs couldn’t, and turn this postseason berth into something more. Anything can happen in the playoffs, so it’s time to set those sights on a goal I couldn’t have fathomed back in March — a World Series title.