The Athletics culminated their magical regular season with champagne and beer showers Wednesay in Oakland, as they dethroned the two-time defending AL West champion Rangers to gain their first division title since 2006.
Oakland rallied from a 5-1 defecit early in the game to score 12 runs and oust Texas by the final of 12-5.
The comeback in the game was not as impressive as the record-breaking comeback in the standings.
The A’s were 13 games back of Texas on June 30, becoming just the fifth team in Major League history to come back from 13 or more games to win a pennant or division title. Oakland also became the first team in ML history to win a pennant or division title when trailing by five or more games with fewer than 10 games remaining.
It may seem like a fairytale season to those outside of the organization, but not to Billy Beane. “One of the words I’ve heard in the past couple weeks is Cinderella,” a jubilant Beane stated in the clubhouse after the game. “You don’t play 162 games as a Cinderella. There are some pretty good baseball players out there.”
With one of the biggest wins in franchise history, Beane was not left out of the post game celebration in the clubhouse. Josh Reddick, as he has done to players during post-game interviews after “walk-off” wins, slammed a whipped cream pie into the face of the Oakland General Manger.
The A’s finish the season on a six game win streak, and will start the playoffs on Saturday at the Detroit Tigers in a best-0f-five series.
The game on Wednesday will be one of the most memorable for Oakland fans since game 20 of the win streak in 2002.
A.J.Griffin did not have his best stuff working for him in the most important start of his young career. Out of 70 pitches thrown just 44 were strikes, and the Rangers put up five runs while batting around in the third inning.
The once rowdy crowd was deflated, but the A’s bats were not going to give up.
Brandon Moss walked to lead off the fourth inning, breaking a streak of eight straight batters retired by Ryan Dempster. A booming double of the wall in left-center by Josh Reddick, followed by two consecutive singles knocked starting pitcher Ryan Dempster out of the game to vociferous chants of “Let’s go Oakland!” by a fully revived audience.
Three batters later Coco Crisp tied the game with a two out, two run double down the right field line, drawing the crowd into a frenzy. After a walk to Stephen Drew, Yoenis Cespedes hit a lazy fly ball to center field that should have ended the inning, however the ball glanced off of former MVP Josh Hamilton’s glove for a two run error which caused the Coliseum to absolutely erupt with deafening cheer.
It was only appropriate that Oakland-born MC Hammer’s “Too Legit to Quit” energized the sold out crowd of 36, 067 (including 1,000 standing room only) after the 6-run inning was completed.
“These guys have more heart than any team I’ve been around,” Hitting Coach Chili Davis said after the game.
A four run eighth inning highlighted by a Derek Norris solo home run gave the A’s more than enough run support, and the emotions of both teams started to show. Smiles, hugs and “Bernie leans” filled the Oakland dugout; while empty stares, looks of discontent, and lowered heads filled the Rangers’.
The bullpen for the A’s did an awe inspiring job of shutting down the high powered Texas offense.
Evan Scribner pitched three innings allowing just two hits, and Jerry Blevins struck out Hamilton to end the sixth before giving way to the back end of the ‘pen.
An intense Ryan Cook, pitching in his fifth consecutive game, struck out two consecutive batters with runners on second and third to end the seventh. After a perfect eighth inning from Sean Doolittle, the fervid Oakland closer Grant Balfour came in for the ninth his entrance music of blaring Metallica.
With the crowd on its feet, Balfour induced a pop-up, and a strike out, before the final out of the game came by way of a fly ball to Crisp in center. Pandemonium ensued, and when the traditional pile up on the mound cleared, the A’s had won the west.
“We want to keep the momentum that we’ve created here up to this point,” stated Bob Melvin. The A’s skipper said that no decisions have been made on the starting rotation for the playoffs.
Anderson threw another side bullpen before the game, leading to speculation that he could be close to a return. Melvin did not rule out the return of McCarthy (head injury), or Bartolo Colon (who will be eligible to return from his 50 game PED suspension if the A’s make the ALCS).