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Game #160: THE 2019 OAKLAND ATHLETICS CLINCH A PLAYOFF BERTH (never mind the loss tonight)

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Seattle Mariners Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Game Thread #1
Game Thread #2
Game Thread #3


Let me start with a Celebration, first. We’ve come too far and worked too hard to let a loss take away anything from the 2019 season. The A’s have survived many other brutal losses this season, and you know what? They’re still going to the playoffs. The only game the A’s can’t lose is Wednesday’s, but what is certain is that Wednesday’s game will be played with the A’s on one side of the field. Go ahead and Celebrate that, even if you feel like celebrating nothing else.

As we patiently wait for the champagne photos from the clubhouse in what you would think is a muted celebration after the very last minute loss, but I can assure you from the T.V. it is not, we take a deep measured breath as we allow this 96 win season to sink in. There is something very poetic and fitting that we find ourselves closing the circle in a Seattle series tonight after how we felt in the early (March) season both in Japan and in Seattle as the A’s lost game after game to the Mariners during their slow start out of the gate, causing many of us to wonder if the A’s could even come close to what they accomplished last year.

A hundred and fifty-eight games later—and it took nearly every game the season had to offer to finally secure a playoff berth, we find ourselves once again playing against Seattle, but instead of adding to the Mariners’ hot start, the A’s are wrapping up their late close. And so much has happened since the early Spring; an entire lifetime of Spring, Summer, and now glorious, magical Fall baseball that saw the A’s win many more games than they lost, taking their fair share of heartbreak and turning it into resolve for the next day.

Tonight’s loss stings like the others, but the 2019 A’s are nothing if not resilient. And in case you didn’t get it from tonight’s game, they are a playoff team.

I’m not sure which way you want to go. Even in a terrific (and otherworldly in the case of the A’s these last two seasons) year, a team is going to lose 60-70 games. I suppose the clean and neat way to lose is to get blown out in every one of those losses so you never think about them again, but in the case of the A’s, there are so many games that they were in until the very last pitch. Which is good for the wins, but absolutely brutal for the losses.

Tonight was no exception. Throwing Liam Hendriks again for his third consecutive day and watching him spike enough wild pitches to eventually lose the slim one-run lead and finally the game, seemed like a movie we saw once before in New York. The loss didn’t come without another heavy casualty; it looked like Chad Pinder took out his hip on a play immediately after the blown save (and didn’t catch the ball to send the game to extras).

Right up until the ninth inning, this game felt for all the world like the one in Anaheim Wednesday night; the plucky A’s, scoring on just one solo home run (tonight’s by Marcus Semien, his 33rd, to lead off the game) hung in there in a 2-1 game all night until a bloop (Chapman) and a blast (Olson, his 36th) pulled victory out of the jaws of defeat in what should have ended in a 3-2 win to stay a game ahead of the Rays.

The best laid plans and all of that, right?

The A’s had a million other chances to score, leaving another nine men on base, watching as defensive play after defensive play thwarted their plans for additional runs. The A’s basically have three hits with men in scoring position in at least 35 chances on this road trip; this streak is entirely on the offense and once again, their seven measly hits (they had six yesterday).

Mike Fiers was shaky in his five innings, but effective, allowing just the two runs on four hits. Puk, Diekman (thanks to a double-play by Matt Olson), and Soria got the job done in the bullpen tonight; the A’s turned over the ball with a lead to Hendriks.

The A’s should start Sean Manaea in the Wild Card game. He has the upside they are looking for in the winner-take-all. Fiers has been terrific this season, but with only one chance to advance, I don’t see another option.

Despite tonight’s loss feeling a whole lot like a plane flight to Florida, we must remember that destiny is still in the hands of the A’s. Despite being tied with the Rays, they hold the tie-breaker for home field and if the A’s win both games to close the season, we’ll see you Wednesday in Oakland.

Shake. It. Off. and celebrate. Games for all the marbles continue tomorrow night with Brett Anderson vs. Marco Gonzales. First pitch 6:10pm.