A's final game of '21 a microcosm of season

Oakland bashes four homers and rallies in ninth but falls just short

October 4th, 2021

HOUSTON -- For what was considered by all accounts to be a meaningless final game of the regular season against the Astros, the A’s took it as one last opportunity to provide some late-inning dramatics.

Entering Sunday, Seth Brown had a goal of reaching the 20-homer mark this season. Khris Davis, who signed with Oakland again on a Minor League deal in August, was yearning for first home run in his comeback in green and gold. Both seemed unattainable. Then, the ninth inning happened.

Trailing by three runs, Oakland stormed back in the ninth for a three-spot against Houston that started with a two-run blast by Brown, his second of the day, to reach the 20-homer milestone. Davis capped it later in the inning with a towering game-tying solo blast to left for what was his first home run in an A’s uniform since Game 2 of the 2020 American League Division Series, which also came against the Astros.

Ultimately, the end result was a walk-off 7-6 loss to the Astros at Minute Maid Park on Yuli Gurriel’s single against Lou Trivino to cap the 2021 season, bringing the A’s final record to 86-76.

The manner in which the season finale unfolded for Oakland is quite symbolic of its 2021 campaign. It was a season that did not match the high expectations set forth in Spring Training. The A’s were aiming to repeat as AL West champions. Through a streaky season of highs and lows, much like Sunday’s contest, they kept fighting. In the end, it all fell apart in heartbreaking fashion.

“This game in the entirety was kind of a microcosm,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “To be able to fight like that and come back at the end, we came up short, just like we did this season. There were a lot of similarities between our season and this particular game. 

“But what we’ve accomplished in the last four years and the tone that we’ve set, we take pride in fighting no matter what. This year, we just came up short. But I think that gives a little more edge next year to get back to the postseason.” 

With the offseason now underway, the focus switches over to the several key A’s players set to hit free agency and how many they could realistically bring back. Those questions will be raised in the coming weeks.

“Certainly, we have a tough time signing free agents,” said Melvin. “But the guys that we control, I would hope would be back. The guys that we control are a lot of our core that’s been together for a few years.”

Brown didn’t enter the season as part of that core. In fact, he was left on the outside looking in as the final roster cut of Spring Training. 

It was a tough pill to swallow. But Brown is no stranger to adversity. This is a guy who grinded through the Minor Leagues for the first five years (573 games) of his professional career before his first big league callup in 2019. 

Now, completing his first full season in the Majors at age 29, Brown will head into the offseason with a real shot to insert himself into that core group come 2022.

“This is just the start for Brownie,” Melvin said. “He had to prove himself at the big league level. Next thing you know, he shows up this year and has 20 home runs. I think this is really going to push him into being a bona fide big leaguer with a lot of power.

“He’s had a hard road. He should be proud of the season he’s put together. A little bit of a late start to a big league career, but the start of what’s going to be a good one.”

Brown came full circle on Sunday. Minute Maid Park was also where he hit his first career big fly, having done so on April 10. Making his 20th homer all the more impressive was the pitcher it came against: Zack Greinke.

“Not many people hit 20 homers in The Show,” Brown said. “It’s definitely special, especially off a future Hall of Fame guy in Greinke. It’s a special moment.”

Davis was once part of that A’s core, slugging more homers than any player in baseball from 2016-18. Then came a sharp decrease in production, which led to Oakland eventually trading him to Texas this past February.

Released by the Rangers in June, many wondered if Davis, 33, had seen his best days go by. Since rejoining the A’s, though, the designated hitter has flashed glimpses of his old self, primarily with his ability to drive the ball hard to the opposite field.

Nearly hitting the train tracks with his solo shot on Sunday on a ball he tagged 105.4 mph off the bat and sent a Statcast-projected 409 feet, it’s clear there’s definitely still something left in the tank.

“I proved a lot of people wrong,” Davis said. “When I got released, they didn’t think they’d see me again. I literally read that. Just to be back up was a victory in itself.”

There’s no guarantee Davis will be back next season. Based on his feelings towards this organization, however, it might not take much convincing to bring him back.

“Oakland is a pretty special place for me and my family,” Davis said. “[The A’s] have made my dreams come true. There’s no other place I’d rather play.”