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Oakland A’s clinch 2020 postseason berth, via at least a Wild Card

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Magic number to clinch AL West division is 2 entering Saturday

San Francisco Giants v Oakland Athletics Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The Oakland A’s are officially going back to the postseason in 2020!

We don’t yet know exactly what method they’ll use to qualify, nor what seed they’ll be, nor who they’ll play in the first round. But one way or other, they will be involved in the tournament.

After the A’s win on Friday, coupled with a Seattle Mariners loss, it’s now mathematically impossible for eight other AL teams to pass Oakland and leave them out in the cold. The worst they can do is the second Wild Card and the No. 8 seed.

(Technicality update: The worst they can do is actually second place in the AL West and the No. 6 seed, which they clinched over Seattle simultaneously to clinching the second Wild Card over them.)

Of course, they have their sights set much higher than that. With nine games to play, their magic number to win the AL West division is only two over the Houston Astros, which is little more than a formality at this point. It’s not over till it’s over, but it’s pretty much over.

With that division crown will come the guarantee of a Top 3 seed, which in turn means home-field advantage at the Coliseum in all three games of the opening Wild Card Round. The rest of the postseason after that will be held at neutral sites, from the ALDS to ALCS to World Series, so seeding beyond the first round still matters (home team bats last!) but not as much as in the first round. Click here for more info on the schedule for the playoffs.

If the season ended this morning, Oakland (32-19) would rank as the No. 3 seed as the worst division winner, and in the first round they’d face the No. 6 Astros, as the worst second-place team. Houston is likely locked into that sixth spot, but the A’s are within one game of the second seed and 1.5 games of having the best record, so this prospective matchup could yet change by Sept. 29 when the postseason begins. The top two seeds will face the best third-place teams in the AL, which currently appear to be the Indians and Blue Jays in that order.

History

This is the sixth time in the last nine seasons that the A’s have reached the postseason, a total surpassed during that span only by the Dodgers (8 times), per insider Martin Gallegos. It’s also Oakland’s 11th trip since 2000, meaning they’re above a 50/50 success rate at making it in the 21st century.

This latest berth will offer a bigger opportunity than the last few. In 2014, ‘18, and ‘19, the A’s reached the Wild Card Game and got to play one single contest, which they lost each time. This year they’ll play a minimum of two games, as the Wild Card Round has been (temporarily?) changed to a best-of-three series.

If they reach the ALDS, it’ll be for the first time since 2013. They have a painful history there, too, having lost in that round each year from 2000-03, and again in both of 2012-13, every time taking it the full five games before falling dramatically. The one time they won a series in this century was the ALDS in 2006, and they immediately went on to get swept in the ALCS. Their last World Series appearance was 1990 but they lost, and their last championship was won in 1989, against the very Giants they beat on Friday to clinch this year’s berth.

Now the A’s will get another spin on the October wheel of fortune. Can they hit the jackpot again for the first time in 31 years?