WC loss extends A's elimination-game futility

October 3rd, 2019

OAKLAND -- The A’s astonishing futility in winner-take-all postseason contests continued with their 5-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays in Wednesday’s American League Wild Card Game.

The A’s have lost nine consecutive games in which a victory would have advanced them to a more prestigious postseason series. Home-field advantage hasn’t helped Oakland, which has dropped six of these games before friendly, encouraging Coliseum throngs. Both of those streaks are dubious Major League records. Three of the losses occurred in one-game Wild Card showdowns; six unfolded in the finales of five-game Division Series.

"We've lost the last two with this group here. So it's a different group every year," said A's manager Bob Melvin. "I don't think they're too wound up about that. Get into this Wild Card Game and a lot of times it comes down to pitching and timely hitting. They got us on the run early in the game, and we really couldn't answer."

The A’s haven’t triumphed in a win-or-go-home game since 1973, when they subdued the New York Mets, 5-2, in Game 7 of the World Series. That happened to be the final game in which the legendary Willie Mays suited up as a player, though he did not appear in the contest for the Mets.

Oakland embarked upon its trail of postseason woe beginning in 2000. The A’s outscored the Yankees in the Division Series, 23-19, but Oakland amassed nearly half of its runs in an 11-1 Game 4 rout. When it counted most, the A’s dropped Game 5, 7-5, as New York held on after scoring six first-inning runs.

The script remained familiar, with minor alterations, in Oakland’s successive one-and-done encounters:

2001: Oakland blew a 2-0 series lead to the Yankees, as momentum reversed with New York’s 1-0 triumph in Game 3. That was the scene of Yanks shortstop Derek Jeter’s now-famous flip home that retired Jeremy Giambi, who did not slide as he unsuccessfully tried to score from first base on Terrence Long’s drive to right field.

2002: Again Oakland gained an encouraging advantage, moving ahead of Minnesota, two games to one. Undaunted, the Twins thrashed the A’s in Game 4, 11-2, before sealing the series with a 5-4 victory.

2003: Oakland again forged a 2-0 series lead, this time against Boston. Then came an excruciating ending for the A’s. They dropped Game 3 in 11 innings, 3-1, before the Red Sox edged them in the next two games, 5-4 and 4-3.

2012: Trailing Detroit two games to none, the A’s gamely persevered in a pair of low-scoring games to pull even in the series. But right-hander Justin Verlander paced the Tigers to a 6-0 triumph in Game 5 by pitching a complete-game four-hitter. He walked one and struck out 11.

2013: The A’s nightmare became a recurring one. They couldn’t put away Detroit despite capturing two of the series’ first three games. Verlander again won the Game 5 clincher, allowing three hits in eight innings while walking one and striking out 10.

2014: Jon Lester bequeathed a 7-4 lead to the bullpen with one out and a run in as the Wild Card Game in Kansas City moved into the eighth inning. Then things got wild. The Royals scored three eighth-inning runs, all charged to Lester, before forcing extra innings. Oakland inched ahead with a run in the 12th, but Kansas City received RBI singles from Christian Colón and Salvador Pérez in its half of the inning to give the Royals a 9-8 victory.

2018: Another year and another Wild Card Game heaped more frustration upon the A’s, who lost, 7-2, at Yankee Stadium. Aaron Judge’s two-run homer off Oakland opener Liam Hendriks set the pace for the Yankees, who added four sixth-inning runs, including two generated by Luke Voit’s triple. Yanks starter Luis Severino worked only four innings but struck out six of the first nine batters he faced.