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To clinch is no cinch for Oakland
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10/07/2003  4:03 AM ET 
To clinch is no cinch for Oakland
A's have struggled with chance to advance to ALCS
tickets for any Major League Baseball game
Barry Zito thought this would be the year Oakland would advance to the ALCS. (Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
OAKLAND -- With their 4-3 Game 5 loss to the Red Sox on Monday night, the Athletics missed their ninth consecutive opportunity to close out a postseason series.

In 2000, the surprising A's lost a Game 5 at home to the Yankees, with starter Gil Heredia surrendering five runs in the first inning.

In a rematch with New York in 2001, the A's won Games 1 and 2 at Yankee Stadium only to drop three straight, squandering a brilliant pitching performance by Zito in Game 3 when Jeremy Giambi was infamously tagged out at home on a spectacular play by Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter.

Last year, the heavily-favored A's, coming off a 103-win season, took a 2-1 lead on Minnesota, but were blown out by the Twins in Game 4 at the Metrodome and dropped a close Game 5.

Gaffes that included four errors and two costly baserunning mistakes cost Oakland Game 3 at Fenway Park on Saturday. Sunday, the A's overcame the loss of ace Tim Hudson to injury in the first inning only to see their AL-leading closer Keith Foulke allow two runs in the eighth to send both clubs back cross-country for Monday's decisive Game 5.

But Oakland general manager Billy Beane doesn't see any lack of killer instinct. He said the 2003 Red Sox simply proved to be the better team.

    Barry Zito   /   P
Height: 6'4"
Weight: 205
Bats/Throws: L/L

More info:
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"The fact of the matter is that Boston is a better team than we are," said Beane. "These guys took them right to the wire, right to the last inning. And once again, I have no complaints.

"These guys played their butts off right to the last strike."

But it will take more than kind words from the boss to make these A's feel better about losing the ALDS to the Red Sox after holding a 2-0 series advantage.

"This is probably the first year I really felt we could go on," said Game 5 starter Barry Zito. "The first two years, we were happy to be there. Last year with Minnesota, it was tough. This was the year I saw myself getting on a plane to New York. But it didn't happen.

"It's easy to clump the four years together and say that the A's can't get out of the first round. But there were definite reasons for each series I still think we've got a great team. To get back to the playoffs four straight years, we've still got a great team. What we accomplished during the season is definitely indicative of what we can do."

Kent Schacht is a reporter for MLB.com. Rich Draper, a reporter for MLB.com contributed to this story, which was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.





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