It’s not looking good for the 2021 Oakland A’s.
Less than three weeks ago they were in position for their fourth straight postseason trip, but since then they’ve gone into a freefall.
Entering Tuesday, the A’s have 25 games remaining in the season. They’re in third place in the AL West division, six games out of the lead. They’re 3.5 games out of the Second Wild Card, and they have to pass two more teams just to compete for that final playoff spot. They just got swept by a fellow contender in dramatic fashion, and they’ve lost 14 of their past 20 contests.
The rotation was Oakland’s biggest strength all year, but now their ace starter is injured and some of the other arms are showing signs of wear. The bullpen held firm for four months despite losing their closer in spring training, but now they’ve racked up seven blown saves in 14 games and the 9th inning appears up for grabs. The lineup got a huge boost from their trade deadline acquisitions, but the offense remains inconsistent.
There are a hundred reasons to conclude that hope is lost for contention, and maybe it is. Various sources put the A’s odds of reaching the postseason around the 7% to 15% range depending who you ask, and even if they make it, they have an uninspiring 30-45 record against winning teams this year.
All that remains is optimism. It feels like everything has gone wrong this summer, and they’ve taken some agonizing losses including 17 of their last 24 one-run games, but they’re still close enough to be in the playoff chase. They’ve lost some big names from their roster, but they’ve still got a lot of good players. Just a week ago they won three games to snap a skid and it was enough to look like they might be back on track. That could happen again this week.
Manager Bob Melvin isn’t giving up.
"Our best baseball is yet to come."— A's on NBCS (@NBCSAthletics) September 5, 2021
Bob Melvin and the A's are preparing to make a run pic.twitter.com/FwRIzRmBP6
“I think the best part of our season is yet to come, I really do. I think we’re gonna get home, we’re gonna play our best stretch of baseball, and we’re gonna get on a run before the season’s over. ... I think our best baseball is yet to come.”
There are still four weeks of games left, and a lot can happen in that kind of small sample. Struggling stars can bounce back, role players can step up, and new faces can emerge. It just takes one hot streak.
In this snapshot in time, it’s not looking good for Oaktober. The math is clear that the odds are long, and the eyeball test has grown jaded from so many golden opportunities missed. But like a two-run lead in the 8th inning, it ain’t over till it’s over, and MLB history is littered with things nobody expected. Let’s see what the 2021 A’s can do in their final 25 regular season games.