Saturday, September 29, 2012

What? Is? Next?

We Do Things Different Here
When you are down 4-1 going into the 8th inning at home, coming back to win doesn't seem like that impossible of a trick... but the simple fact of the matter is that it doesn't happen all that often. When your eighth inning rally ends with a man being thrown out at the plate, so that you'll go into the bottom of the ninth no better than two runs down to a competent closer, it really doesn't seem like your day. And when the leadoff man whiffs, because these are the Oakland A's, the team that has struck out more often than any team in baseball history before them -- seriously, consider that for a second, then move on -- the odds are really not in your favor.

But these are the A's, the best team in baseball since the All-Star Break. Again, seriously, consider that, especially in light of the fact that they've had pitchers drop like flies and run a baseball team for about twice as much as the Yankees pay their second-best third baseman. So the story continues with their best hitter (Josh Reddick), having recently broken out of an 0-for-30 slump, drawing a walk against Seattle closer Tom Wilhelmsen. (By the way, Wilhelmsen's actually quite good -- 2.41 ERA now, 29 for 33 in save chances, good WHIP and secondary numbers.) And then Josh Donaldson, who had a .395 OPS before the break with a stint in the minors, and an .871 OPS after, sent one to straightaway center, which is a pretty ridiculous place to hit a home run anywhere, let alone the Coliseum. Tie game, and the 10th saw a walk-off 3-run HR from scrap heap first baseman Brandon Moss, and hey presto. The A's are 2.5 games out of first place in the division with the Rangers, and 2.5 ahead of the Angels. (Those teams rained out on each other today, and will play a double-header in Texas tomorrow.)

The A's will host the Rangers for the final three games at the Coliseum this week. One more day of happy moments, and it could be not just for the clinching wild-card game against the Orioles or Yankees against the second-string Texas starters, but for the actual old-school way to get into the playoffs -- the way that doesn't involve a single-game playoff to reach the real round. Adding to the fun is the fact that, as I write this, the Orioles are leading the Red Sox, and the Yankees have already somehow lost to the Blue Jays... and Oakland has Tommy Milone, who has been great at home, going tomorrow in the series finale with the Mariners.

In other words, the Littlest Team That Might... is rapidly becoming the Weirdest Team That Did. And if you think they aren't going to go anywhere in the playoffs, answer me one question: Why not, since there's absolutely no reason to have expected them to get this far?

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