Would you rather be eliminated from the postseason in a close game that leaves you wondering about a key play that could have gone the other way, or in a rout that removes all doubt about the outcome?
The Oakland A’s experienced the latter on Thursday, taking an 11-6 pounding from the Houston Astros in Game 4 of the 2020 ALDS. That’s the third win in the best-of-five series for the Astros, which means they advance to the ALCS and the A’s are knocked out of the playoffs.
The game followed the same opening script as all the others this week. The A’s homered to take an early lead, and then the Astros charged back in the middle innings to pull ahead. The only question was whether Houston would cruise the rest of the way, like they did in Games 1 and 2, or Oakland would mount a comeback like they did in Game 3. As it turned out, the green and gold didn’t have any magic left in their bats, and the Astros continued piling on runs until the score was out of reach.
It started out so well. In the 2nd inning the A’s got a homer, and this time they made sure to put runners on base first. Ramon Laureano finally had his legendary moment against his former team, with a mammoth 449-foot blast for a 3-0 lead.
Laureano leading the A’s emotionally and with the bat pic.twitter.com/2E53PwdYm6— A's on NBCS (@NBCSAthletics) October 8, 2020
They almost got another one in the 4th from Matt Olson, but he got robbed. Former A’s Gold Glover Josh Reddick raced to the wall and pulled it back, turning a dinger into a flyout.
Still, Oakland was in control entering the bottom of the frame. Starter Frankie Montas was cruising through three innings, offering hope of a smoother day this time around.
But then, the 4th began with a leadoff walk to Jose Altuve. Then a two-run homer by Michael Brantley. A bloop single, and then another single on the ground. Then a monster three-run homer by Carlos Correa. And just like that, in the span of only five batters Houston had turned the game on its head and now led 5-3.
Laureano wasn’t going down without a fight, though (figuratively speaking). With the way the ball has carried all week, no lead was safe. In the top of the 5th, he drilled another homer to make it 5-4. Both dingers came off starter Zack Greinke, and combined they traveled nearly 900 feet (449 and 442, for a total of 891).
No signs needed for this one pic.twitter.com/AwRLjWPeAV— A's on NBCS (@NBCSAthletics) October 8, 2020
Unfortunately, Oakland’s bats went cold after that. Eight of the next nine batters were retired, followed by a brief two-out rally in the 7th that didn’t go anywhere. Another pair of runners were stranded in the 8th.
Meanwhile, Houston’s bats did not go cold. They scored twice in the 5th, including another homer by Brantley. They rallied for two more in the 6th. Altuve added a two-run homer in the 7th. And just like that, it was 11-4.
The A’s made some noise in the 9th, at least. Three singles plated a pair of runs, but they didn’t even get the tying run on deck before the final out was recorded on a called third strike to Khris Davis.
And with that, Oakland’s 2020 season is over. It was a good run, featuring their first division title since 2013, and their first postseason series win since 2006. But it wasn’t a great run, which would have required a deeper journey into October, and finally defeating the bitter rival Astros.
Now it’s on to the winter, to prepare for a 2021 campaign that will hopefully feature the full 162 games. And, if all goes well, another crack at a championship for the A’s.
The A's have now hit 12 home runs in the Division Series, the most by a team in a series of 5 or fewer games in postseason history.— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) October 8, 2020
Broke a tie with:
2004 Astros NLDS
1995 Mariners ALDS
1995 Yankees ALDS