video thumbnail

Must C Clinch: A's claim playoff spot in Oakland

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 on the rebuild 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.

It's the A's 24th playoff berth in franchise history, including their 16th in Oakland. And the club's manager, Bay Area native Bob Melvin, couldn't be more proud of his winning group of misfits.

"It's absolutely amazing," he said. "We don't get this done without contributions from everybody, and everybody plays so selflessly. They were all in it for the team."

The division, too, still remains in reach for Melvin's squad, 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.

There's no denying that's the goal, but, for now, allow these A's to enjoy what they deserve: a celebration.

"We're on top of the world right now, so we're going to enjoy it," said outfielder Coco Crisp, champagne flowing down his face. "Just to be here with these guys tonight, I wouldn't want to be anywhere else right now."

"To come as far as we have, to get somewhere no one thought was possible for us, it's a great feeling," added outfielder Josh Reddick. "There's nothing like this. It's amazing."

No matter what transpires over the next two days, the underdog A's cannot be denied 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 it 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 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.

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 the 25-year-old 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. This one was there's for the taking.

"I mean, everyone counted us out at the beginning, never gave us a chance, not even a week ago, but to go out there and keep winning meaningful games, it's just a testament to the heart of this clubhouse," third baseman Josh Donaldson said. "I feel like, for the first time in a while Texas is under a little bit of pressure. We're going to make sure they keep feeling that."

Consider Oakland's 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 impressive resume vs. the Rangers, some cushion.

Over the next three innings, Parker gave back both runs. But the A's, always playing with a sense of urgency, brought that mindset to life in the next inning, when Adam Rosales and Crisp tallied back-to-back doubles to regain the lead, one 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.

"I couldn't have written it up any better," said Balfour, who in dramatic fashion struck out the side for his 16th save in 16 tries since returning to the closer role in August. "This is what we've played for all season."

"It's amazing," A's co-owner Lew Wolff said. "I never thought we'd be here at this time of the year."

MLB.com Comments