The A’s were unable to write the ending they’d hoped to write. No matter. They’ll get their celebration soon enough. Possibly Monday. Certainly in a day or two. Maybe an ugly loss like the one they suffered on Sunday -- 14-2 to the Giants -- will make them appreciate clinching the American League West even more.
They walked into the home clubhouse at the Oakland Coliseum on Sunday morning with a magic number of one -- that’s one A’s win or one Astros loss -- and the energy and anticipation that comes with the chance to win a division title.
“I mean, everybody came to the field thinking, get another 'W,' get another win, lock it up,” A’s pitcher Mike Minor said “Didn’t happen. But you know guys are still positive. They're going to get to LA and do work there.”
In a perfect world, they would wrap up the AL West on Sunday and then have an off-day on Monday before finishing the regular season with three games at Dodger Stadium and four at home against the Mariners.
First, they scoreboard-watched as the Astros rallied to beat the D-backs, 3-2. Then by the sixth inning of their own game, they were in an 8-0 hole and that was pretty much that. Chadwick Tromp hit a two-run homer off Minor in the third inning, and Darin Ruf hit another in the fourth. Brandon Crawford’s grand slam off reliever J.B. Wendelken in the sixth broke it open.
“I don't think anything changes,” outfielder Mark Canha said. “We're not putting pressure on ourselves. We're just kind of approaching them all the same way."
Oakland’s bullpen -- the best in baseball -- had a rare bad day at the office, with four relievers allowing eight earned runs in four innings.
“They’re used to coming in games where it's close and every pitch matters,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “So it's a little different view of it when you're down that big.”
As for Minor, two misplaced sliders -- one to Tromp, one to Ruf -- did him in. If this was an audition for a postseason start, it was not great timing.
“Yeah, the slider was the worst pitch today,” Minor said. “Gave up a lot of hard contact. To Ruf, the at-bat before, he fouled off a couple off his feet. I thought maybe that was the right pitch, but poorly executed. You could tell he was probably looking for it.”
In an offensively challenged year, the A’s didn’t have a baserunner until the fourth inning and didn’t get a hit until Matt Olson looped a 44 mph single inside the third-base bag moments later.
Runner in scoring position? That happened in the fifth when they stranded Khris Davis at third base. They scored twice in the sixth inning, but had just five hits on the day, went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position and stranded eight.
“We seem to be a team that responds pretty well,” Melvin said. “Of course, we wanted to clinch today. We wanted to do it at home, and we were on a roll the last couple games. It just didn't happen.”