This is familiar ground for Oakland A’s fans. A playoff series has reached its final, sudden death, winner-take-all elimination game. Sometimes it gets here because the A’s took an early lead and then let the other team back into the series. Sometimes they fall behind and make a late comeback, as is the case this year. But it always ends up here eventually.
In the last decade, it has always resulted in an A’s loss. Whether in Game 5 of the ALDS, or a one-and-done Wild Card Game, the opponent always does just enough to capture it. Take it out to the entire 21st century, and the story is the same, with just one year in which they won a single series — but did so in a sweep. In this century, when the series has been taken to its brink, they’ve never won. That’s where we’re at entering Game 3 of the new Wild Card Round.
None of this is news to A’s fans. The losses have become routine at this point, feeling as inevitable as the sun coming up every day or 880 being in gridlock. But it’s impossible to ignore the memories every time current events extend toward and into October, especially when the rest of the country starts talking about it and replaying all the infamous lowlights on loop. Hey did you ever think about how Eloy Jimenez being out with an injured foot is reminiscent of Kirk Gibson in the 1988 World NO STOP IT please quit bringing that up at every chance.
Will this time be different? The thing about Lucy pulling the football from Charlie Brown is that it was fiction, not real life, and this game won’t actually be scripted no matter how much it feels like the relentlessly cruel heartbreaks are predetermined at this point. Between now and the end of time, the A’s will win another postseason series. I can say that with near certainty. Maybe it will be this one.
But if A’s fans weren’t already biting their nails in the 9th inning of Game 2, with Jose Abreu at the plate and the go-ahead run on first base, then we sure are now that we’re facing another winner-take-all elimination game. All the old nightmares can be dredged out from the dark corners of our subconsciouses, waiting to haunt us anew as they try to write another page in the long burn book of the postseason.
Or, perhaps waiting to be vanquished by the victory that’s so long overdue. It would only buy the A’s a ticket to the ALDS, not anything close to a ring yet, but it would mean so much more than that to all of us. At long last, it would mean finally breaking away from the familiar ground of tantalizing opportunity and perpetual defeat, and forging ahead to something, anything new.
Game 3 is coming, Thursday at high noon. Hopefully, when the sun sets, the A’s will have changed everything by doing the unthinkable — moving on to the next round.