With a playoff spot finally assured, the A’s were able to take something of a victory lap tonight at Safeco Field. While other outcomes are still possible, it seems increasingly likely the A’s will head to Yankee Stadium for the wild card game on October 3rd.
The A’s learned of their playoff bid as they were batting in the first inning, but found themselves trailing a few minutes later as Seattle took a 1-0 lead on a solo shot from Robinson Cano. Despite the PED suspension (or perhaps because of the rest it afforded him), Cano has had a very good year, and drove a middle-middle fastball out to deep right-center field.
But that was all the offense Seattle could muster for a while. In fact, Seattle didn’t even record another hit until the sixth. But in the sixth, Seattle’s bats came alive.
It’s fair to wonder whether Daniel Mengden should have even been on the mound. His pitch count was fine, but Daniel took a liner off his surgically-repaired right foot in the fifth and, for a moment, looked like he was in serious pain. Mengden rolled around on the mound, writhing in agony, but recovered, and closed out the fifth. His toughness is appreciated, but with a playoff spot locked up and expanded September rosters, many will question the wisdom of allowing him to continue.
In fairness to the presumptive AL Manager of the Year, we probably wouldn’t be talking about whether he should have allowed Mengden to continue had Daniel pitched a clean sixth. But that he did not. Mengden faced four batters in the frame and allowed a single, and double, and a homer. Unfair as it would have been, as he exited the game, he was no longer eligible for the win, but could have been saddled with the loss. Fortunately the bullpen and offense picked him up.
Jonathan Lucroy had a heck of a night and hit his 100th career home run in the third.
Luc’ threw out Dee Gordon later in the game, running his 2018 caught stealing total to a baseball-leading 28.
Jed Lowrie and Khris Davis hit solo bombs as well.
And right after Mengden had lost the lead, Matt Chapman picked him up.
The A’s scored two more in the eighth, credit the RBIs to Marcus Semien’s sacrifice fly and Matt Olson’s single. And the evergreen, ever-great combination of Rodney, Familia, and Treinen brought the game home. And so the A’s clinch their first playoff bid since 2014. That alone would have been sweet enough, but tonight’s win makes it all the better.
The final five games will be a tricky balancing act for Bob Melvin as the A’s continue to strive to host the wild card game, while remaining mindful of resting and preparing the lineup and pitching staff for what hopefully is a long postseason. But lest we think too far ahead, even the rosiest of preseason predictions didn’t have us here.
Camus may have never seen a baseball game, but he summarized its fandom perfectly: “The struggle itself towards the heights is enough to fill a person’s heart.” Regardless of what happens in a week’s time or in the month that follows, the struggle of the past three years has led to a wonderful surprise season and a fruitful outlook for the future. Our hearts are full.