09/07/2002 00:00 am ET
End of streak puts focus on race
Loss to Twins has Oakland thinking about Anaheim
By Mychael Urban / MLB.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- There was no comeback, no late-inning magic, no can-you-believe-thats. The A's were soundly beaten in every aspect Friday, and their American League-record winning streak of 20 games came to a convincing end.
But there also was no despair, no hanging of heads, and absolutely no need to hide the razor blades. The A's gripping run came to an end Friday with a 6-0 loss to the host Twins, but the mood in the clubhouse wasn't exactly maudlin.
More than anything, there was a lot of looking back at the sweet ride that had just expired. And a lot of looking ahead to the riveting race for the American League West title.
"I wish it could've gone on for who knows how long," said manager Art Howe, "but now that it's over, it's over. We've got a lot of work to do, and now we have to try to get another [streak]."
The man charged with trying to start a next streak is Saturday starter Mark Mulder, who's never been one to get too high or low about anything. So when asked about the end of the historic run, he gave a figurative shrug.
"It was cool, and obviously we'd have liked to keep it going, but our focus doesn't really change now that it's over," he said. "We still just have to go out and take care of our business, and if we do that we'll be all right."
Whatever they do, they'll probably be doing it with fewer eyes upon them. As the A's rolled over the rest of the league on the way to the longest winning streak in the bigs since 1935, climbing from third to first in the division, all of baseball was watching with fascination. That's why the press box at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome was packed tighter than Shakira's jeans.
But while Oakland awed, the Anaheim Angels were playing some pretty good ball beneath the national radar. And with a victory over the Orioles on Friday, they pulled within two games of the A's in the wild, wild West.
Guess who's streaking now? Eight straight. And if they sweep in Baltimore this weekend, they'll take a 10-game streak home for the first of four games against the A's.
Then there's Seattle. The Mariners have been fading of late, but wounded animals are the most dangerous. Oakland returns home next Friday to face the defending division champs three times to open a homestand, followed by four games against the Angels. Then comes the season-ending road trip that opens with three games in the Emerald City.
In other words, welcome back to the pennant race.
"We never left it," said outfielder Terrence Long. "Seriously. Through all this, it was always about the race, not the streak. Because think about it. If we don't make the playoffs, what does the streak mean? Nothing. It's ALL about the race and always has been."
Mychael Urban covers the Oakland A's for MLB.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.