I had a recap ready to go by the eighth inning. I was going to applaud the A’s for their resiliency, for gutting it out and winning a do-or-die playoff game on the road. I was going to tout Brandon Moss as the hero, for making up for all his struggles in the second half of the season with two big swings when it mattered most. I was going to give Bob Melvin credit for having the guts to play Moss at DH instead of Adam Dunn, who probably deserved to play in a postseason game more than any active player in the baseball. I was going to label Billy Beane as a genius for trading Yoenis Cespedes for Jon Lester, because now that they’ve gotten through the play-in game, they have a stud in Lester who can lead them to a deep playoff run. I was going to warn the Angels that they should be scared of the A’s, because these A’s are coming off an emotional win and are as motivated as ever.
But no, the Angels will have to plan for the Royals instead in the ALDS – those pesky Royals, with all their speed and bunts and small ball and a manager who has no business managing a playoff team.
Despite the heartbreak, the A’s deserved every bit of this. They deserved – hell, they were lucky – to sneak into the second wild card spot and have to play this game on the road.
This game could have been used rather easily as an analogy for the A’s season: starting great, going on cruise control, and then suddenly collapsing. Except, this time, they didn’t survive the collapse and sneak through to the next round – this time, it was an utter catastrophe that ended their misery for good.
“Misery” would be an understatement. I’m imagining Beane right now sitting alone in an empty Coliseum, just staring at the field. Or perhaps he’s working out with a blank expression on his face, muttering “Cespedes” over and over again.
It’s not as if Cespedes would have helped much in this game anyway; the A’s scored eight runs on 13 hits. Ironically, it was Lester who looked shaky and set the tone for the Royals’ comeback by allowing a couple hits and a run to cross the plate in eighth. Lester wound up being charged with six runs in what likely will be his only postseason appearance in an A’s uniform. But that’s what happens when you succumb to a historical collapse and don’t win the division: you have your fate decided by one game, where literally anything can happen, as we learned yesterday.
Anything, as in Lester not being Lester. Anything, as in the Royals stealing seven bases because Derek Norris has zero arm strength and Geovany Soto had to leave the game in the third with an injury (and if your season is riding on the arm of Geovany Soto, that’s when you’re screwed). Anything, as in Sean Doolittle – close to automatic in the ninth inning – blowing the save.
What makes it even worse, though, is that the A’s were gift-wrapped a win thanks to the ineptitude of Ned Yost, who took out James Shields after 88 pitches and handed the ball to rookie Yordano Ventura to face Moss in the sixth inning. Moss put the A’s in front 5-3 with a three-run homer. They tacked on two more runs to make it 7-3, and if the baseball gods exist, that would have been the final score just to punish Yost for the awful decision.
But no – in a one-game playoff, anything can happen, such as Alberto Callaspo knocking in the go-ahead run in extras. Any team can beat any other team on any given day, and it’s the A’s own fault that they crashed and burned into this position.
And so it ends for the A’s, and oh how painful it must be for Beane to watch Lester struggle and to watch Jason Hammel give up the game-wining hit to Salvador Perez, who lined it to left where Jonny Gomes was playing. It’s almost as if those baseball gods were reminding Beane of his questionable trade deadline deals, and the fact that all of three of those players may not even be with the team next season.
Who knows if the A’s will return to the postseason next season – whether their struggles down the stretch were just an aberration or if they really are done overachieving. Those topics will be discussed at length this offseason, but what we do know is that 2014 was just another year, another case study for Beane to figure out yet another playoff failure.