A’s clinch playoff berth
OAKLAND — Still waiting for the A’s to flounder? It’s officially too late.
Oakland pulled off the improbable Monday, in less than a year’s time completing its transformation from a team rebuilding to one ready to construct a postseason roster by way of a Wild Card-clinching 4-3 victory over the Rangers in front of a roaring home crowd.
The division, too, still remains in reach, as the win pulled the A’s within one game of Texas in the American League West with two to play, after being 13 out on June 2.
No matter what transpires over the next two days, though, the underdog A’s have their first playoff berth since 2006. That is theirs to keep, as they’re at least assured of a spot in the one-game Wild Card playoff.
Out of the mix are the Angels — Oakland’s division foe spent more than $300 million last offseason in an effort to secure a postseason spot they never got — and the Rays, both of whom fell out of the race as soon as the A’s claimed victory. The Orioles, meanwhile, maintain hold of the other Wild Card spot, their record even with Oakland at 92-68.
While the Halos were busy writing checks to the likes of Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson during the winter, the small-budget A’s kept plenty busy on the phone rather than at the bank, reeling in a crop of baby-faced talent in exchange for a trio of All-Star pitchers. In fitting fashion, several of the former contributed to Monday’s memorable win that paved way for a deserving celebration.
There was rookie righty Jarrod Parker on the mound, all of 23 years old, limiting a star-studded Rangers lineup to three runs over six-plus innings.
There was his battery mate, Derek Norris, also 23, making the calls in the pivotal game, which happened to be just the 58th of his career.
And there was 25-year-old Josh Reddick, his unruly hair flying beneath his cap, driving in his 84th run of the year in the first inning for a lead that was to be temporarily shared but never lost by the A’s.
Consider their second run of the night a gift courtesy of Rangers starter Martin Perez, who was charged with a bases-loaded balk in a two-run first that provided Parker, already equipped with a short but albeit impressive resume vs. the Rangers, some cushion.
Over the next three innings, Parker gave back both runs, the first coming on Elvis Andrus’ RBI single in the third and the second via a one-out shot from Michael Young in the fourth. But the A’s, always playing with a sense of urgency, brought that mindset to life in the next inning, when Adam Rosales and Coco Crisp tallied back-to-back doubles to regain the lead, which was extended to two on Brandon Moss’ sacrifice fly.
Mike Napoli’s leadoff home run off Parker in the seventh cut it back down to one, but Oakland’s steady bullpen, on this night led by the devastating trio of Sean Doolittle, Ryan Cook and Grant Balfour, kept it that way, securing the green and gold of work past Wednesday’s regular-season finale.