Barber: A's lose yet another elimination game, 5-1 to Rays
OAKLAND — What did the A’s do to deserve this? Where did the wretched curse begin?
Did Charlie Finley make a pact with the devil, then fail to pay off the $50 he promised in the bargain? Is the Oakland Coliseum built upon a Miwok burial ground? How could the A’s, a franchise with a history that is rich in both colorful characters and exciting baseball, become the team that can’t win the big one? And how can that dubious legacy survive over so many generations?
I’m going to tell you something you wouldn’t believe, except you’ve probably heard it before, because it is by now infamous: The last time the A’s won an advance-or-die postseason game was Game 7 of the 1973 World Series.
THE 1973 WORLD SERIES. Willie Mays played in that series. The designated hitter was a brand-new concept. That’s how long ago we’re talking about.
Since then, the A’s have played in nine elimination games, and have lost every one of them. It’s a Major League Baseball record. Heck, it was already a record before Wednesday night, when this team was drubbed 5-1 by the visiting Tampa Bay Rays in the American League wild-card game.
Those nine games have little in common, other than all of them ushering in the offseason for the boys in green. They have occurred in five-game AL divisional series and one-game AL wild-card contests. They have been pitchers’ duels, such as when Detroit’s Justin Verlander outdueled Sonny Gray in 2013, and they have been slugfests, like the wild 9-8 loss to the Royals in 2014. They have come in Oakland, and on the road.
Some of them have been extraordinary in the creative ways they crushed the A’s soul. The Athletics held a 7-3 lead going into the eighth inning of that game at Kansas City five years ago, and an 8-7 lead heading into the bottom of the 12th, but let victory slip through their hands.
Remember Game 3 of the 2001 AL Division Series? Yankees fans recall it fondly as the Derek Jeter “flip” game; to A’s fans, it will always be the night Jeremy Giambi failed to slide into home. How about the valiant comeback attempt in 2000 that fell short against the Yankees because of Gil Heredia’s very bad first inning? Boston’s Manny Ramirez going deep against Barry Zito in 2003? Bob Melvin’s “opener” strategy going south at Yankee Stadium a year ago?
I could go on and on. Because the A’s seem to go on and on, cracking under the pressure of a win-or-go-home situation.
It was futile to address this subject with the players in the losing clubhouse Wednesday night. Those guys have been responsible for only one or two of those wrenching losses. None of them were even alive the last time the A’s won an elimination game.
“No, it’s not one of the streaks you kind of like to focus on,” said Liam Hendriks, who threw the final inning of relief for Oakland on Wednesday. “It’s not something that I know of, personally. But at the end of the day, we’ve lost two in a row, like now. And that’s two too many. We came into the season not only hoping to make the playoffs, but to win the division. It didn’t work out that way. And then in this wild card, it never crossed our minds that we’d be going home tonight.”