OAKLAND — The underdog Athletics — with the second lowest payroll in baseball — have clinched a playoff berth.
Nobody — and I mean NOBODY — who is a baseball expert or even the most die-hard A’s fan thought this was possible. Everyone at the start of the season thought Oakland at best would win 70-75 games.
Baseball America picked the A’s to finish last in the AL West. Some even expected the team to lose 100 games.
With two games left, the A’s are 92-68, 24 games over .500 and still have a chance to win the American League West division crown.
For Josh Reddick and the rest of his scrappy teammates, clinching a playoff spot in front of the home fans was huge:
“I don’t think anybody believed in us and it feels good to silence a lot of critics, a lot of people who didn’t have a thought that we had a chance to do this and to do it at home in front of these fans, we haven’t been able to fill up the stands a whole lot but to do it tonight was huge.”
The A’s pivoted their season on June 10 after losing nine straight and falling to last place in the AL West. An interleague series against the Rockies got them started, then heated up with a four-game sweep of the Dodgers. At the time — so long ago now — the Dodgers had the best record in baseball.
Oakland is an American League best 49-25 since the All-Star break.
This team has done it every way possible. In the clincher, they did just enough to beat the mighty Texas Rangers.
Oakland scored two runs in the first. Reddick drove in the first run with an RBI single.
But the unquestionable team MVP — Coco Crisp — had two hits including an RBI double in the fifth, and scored two runs:
“We’ve done a great job of believing in our abilities and believing in the system that we have because there’s been a lot of platooning going on and that’s tough on guys but guys have bought into being a team and this is the reason why we’re celebrating this moment because guys bought into that.”
Rookie Jarrod Parker pitched six solid innings, giving up three runs.
As has been the case for most of the season, the bullpen was lights out once again. On this night, the trio of Sean Doolittle, Ryan Cook, and closer Grant Balfour pitched three perfect innings with five strikeouts.
Balfour struck out the side and basked in the post-game celebration:
“I’ve played in some big games, played in the World Series with Tampa (in 2008) tough games with some other teams but to go out there and to be able to close the game out is one of the highlights of my career right there.”