Despite their terrible finish to the season, the Oakland Athletics win their final game against the Texas Rangers (4-0) and make into the playoffs, setting themselves with a Wild Card game. The Seattle Mariners beat the Los Angeles Angels 4-1, but their efforts and another fantastic pitching performance from Felix Hernandez were too late to take advantage of the A’s collapse.
The Athletics are in the Wild Card game against the Kansas City Royals, who haven’t been to a postseason game since 1985. For the A’s, this is nothing new, but the important thing will be generating momentum from this win over the Rangers, a team that has pretty much been absent this season from the whole process unlike other years in the AL West. The A’s looked like they were taking advantage of the change through the first four months of the season but took a bad turn early in August, falling from being the best team in Baseball to having just one game over the Mariners in the end for the Wild Card spot.
Sonny Gray had a complete game and his second career shutout against the Rangers on the road, giving up six hits, walking none and striking out five batters. It wasn’t a very good hitting day for the A’s which is nothing new in September, finishing with 7-of-33, but they did take advantage of most of their opportunities. Josh Reddick hit a triple to score in the second inning, followed by Stephen Vogt getting an RBI by driving Reddick home. Jed Lowrie finished the job with a single in the fourth inning that scored two, while the Rangers showed once again why they’re the worst team in the American League.
The Seattle Mariners almost made it, but a 4-1 win over the Angels and sweeping the series against the team with the best record in baseball came a tad too late. Felix Hernandez finished the season as the ERA champion, striking out seven batters in 5.1 innings and allowing just one hit to make it a 2.14 ERA this season and a 15-6 record on the mound, yet it’s another playoff-less season for probably the best pitcher in the American League.
The Angels used their depth to its full extent, getting an RBI from John McDonald in the ninth. Seattle got two RBIs from Michael Saunders on two separate at bats, completed by a double-RBI single from Mike Zunino. Struggling to get offense consistently from their big hitters (21st in slugging, 23 in batting average, 27th in getting on base) might be the one cause it’s possible to point as to why the Mariners playoff drought was extended by one more year.
This is a playoff appearance without too much joy. Momentum, not ability overall in the season, is probably the most important thing for a team going into the postseason. Clicking, and playing like a finely tuned machine. It might be a bit basic and simplistic to explain like that, but all the great things the A’s did from April to August don’t matter if this is the same team that did so badly through September. The Kansas City Royals, a bit more solid down the stretch, will be a proper way to find out what really matters.