Nick Punto has made it to the post-season five times since 2006 and relishes one more shot at it.
The A’s as a group have a little bit of experience playing post-season baseball.
Oakland played in the American League Division Series the last two seasons and some of the players brought in recently like Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes were in the World Series as recently as last year.
And then there is Nick Punto. The utility infielder made it to the post-season in 2006 with the Twins, playing (and losing to) the A’s in the ALDS.
He was back in the ALDS with Minnesota in 2009, again getting knocked out early, this time by the Yankees.
Then it was time to get serious about this whole post-season thing.
Josh Reddick, the A’s best hitter down the stretch, sees a big-post-season for Oakland.
There was no lack of joy in any corner of the A’s clubhouse Sunday.
But no one enjoyed the post-game celebration more than Josh Reddick, who spent the hour after the game running around in his superhero underwear that had shortstop Jed Lowrie smiling, shrugging his shoulders and saying “whatever works.’’
It was a personal moment for Reddick who did as much as anyone to push the A’s over the top. He had 16 hits in his last 33 at-bats (batting average: .485) in his last 10 games to provide one stable source of offense.
It was his triple that scored Brandon Moss from second base in the second inning to get the A’s on the scoreboard, and Reddick scored to make it 2-0 on a Stephen Vogt single moments later.
The A’s had lost two-thirds of their final 45 games before Sunday, but with Reddick pants-less and soaked in bubbly and beer, there was no better reminder that it’s a new season beginning immediately.
Sonny Gray pitches Game 162 Sunday, the only game that matters any more for A’s
The A’s have been waiting for six weeks for their slump to end.
You know the one. It’s seen Oakland lose 30 of their last 45 games and has seen the A’s go from the next American League power to a team that is perhaps hours away from failing to make the post-season at all.
If that were to happen, it would go do as one of the great collapses of all-time, perhaps the biggest in Major League history. Other teams have fallen about as far about as fast, but none of them had the lifelines of two Wild Card berths awaiting non-Division Champions.
The A’s have to win Sunday, have the Mariners lose Sunday or, failing that, beat Seattle in a one-game playoff Monday to avoid having that added to their resume.
So what, exactly, did the A’s accomplish by winning Friday and moving to within one game of securing an American League Wild Card berth?
Perhaps not as much as you might think. Or maybe much more.
The A’s can still host the Tuesday Wild Card game. They can go on the road for the Tuesday Wild Card game. Or they can miss out on Tuesday all together.
Here’s how it all breaks down:
Josh Donaldson’s ability to shake off knee injury Friday was a major plus for A’s.
The key playoff Friday’s 6-2 win over Texas for the A’s was a foul ball that didn’t impact the scoring at all.
It did impact third baseman Josh Donaldson, who drove his already-ailing left knee in to the ground in foul territory in pursuit of the Elvis Andrus grounder.
For a few minutes it seemed like Donaldson was hurt badly enough to come out of the game, and the last two games of the season would have been up in the air.
Win or lose the game, the A’s would unquestionably have been sunk if Donaldson was hurt badly enough to come out. He wasn’t and for that the A’s can only be thankful.
“I think everyone was holding their breath right there,’’ pitcher Scott Kazmir said. “He’s a huge part of what we have.’’
Scott Kazmir may have saved his spot in a possible ALDS rotation with Friday’s win.
It was, by Scott Kazmir’s own admission, a “huge relief’’ for him to go out and pitch the way he had the first four months of the season Friday.
He threw seven innings, allowed just four base runners and two runs, one earned.
No one will admit it, but Kazmir might have been pitching for his post-season life.
The veteran lefty came into the game 0-4 in his last six starts with an 8.58 ERA. And the ERA was mostly worse than that, because one of his losses in that stretch was 1-0.
Upper management was considering its options, which would likely have meant moving Jason Hammel in ahead of Kazmir.
While Kazmir had been slumping, Hammel had been pitching some of his best baseball of the season. In his last nine games, eight of them starts, he had a 2.49 ERA.
Now the question will be what to do with Hammel, because Kazmir seems to have locked up the final spot in a post-season American League Division Series rotation, should Oakland get that far.
Mike Gallego was the last Yankees’ player to wear No. 2 before Derek Jeter made that number historic.
One of the many universal rules in baseball is that all rookies learn some tough lessons from the men who came before.
Even if you are Derek Jeter, even if the team is the Yankees and even if you were the team’s first-round draft pick.
Jeter came to came to the spring camp with the Yankees in 1994, 18 months after New York had used the sixth pick in the draft to take him. He was just 20, and he was a long time away from wearing his No. 2.
In fact, No. 2 at the time was worn by current A’s third base coach Mike Gallego, at that point in his final year as the Yankees shortstop.
Gallego got an email Friday from his daughter, Allison. It seems she’d found Instagram an interview from 1995 when Jeter talked about his Gallego in the spring of 1994 asking him how old he was and if he had a girlfriend.
Stephen Vogt says A’s focus remains on fact that the team remains in excellent shape to reach the post-season.
Written on the whiteboard in the Texas Rangers clubhouse Thursday were two words that sum up the final four days of 2014 for the Rangers:
“Dream Crushers’’ it read.
The dream belongs not to the Rangers but to the A’s, who are scrambling to find a way to resuscitate in the final week of the season, claw their way back into the playoffs and then let the chips fall.
The A’s have lost seven of 10, haven’t played well for six weeks and yet still have a decent chance to get to the post-season.
Oakland stranded runners all over the place Thursday – they had a man reach base in every inning but the eighth – then lost when Adrian Beltre hit a walkoff homer in the ninth.
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The A’s and the Mariners are taking two very different treks to the same goal.
Only one of them will make it.
Oakland jumped out to the best record in baseball for the better part of four months and has been backsliding ever since.
Seattle was 11 games behind the A’s on Aug. 4 and was only four games over .500. From that point, the Mariners went on a 22-8 tear to get back into the pennant race, relying heavily on the A’s stumbling.
Sonny Gray was special Tuesday night. Eight Ks through three innings, 10 through five, and ultimately a career-best 12 strikeouts in seven. He allowed three hits, one a home run on the kind of pitch he was getting outs with most of the night.
And thanks to the nonexistent A’s offense, he lost. Again. Gray is 1-7 since the end of July, though it’s hardly an indicator of how he’s pitched through this tough stretch.
True, Gray has had a few rough outings of late. He gave up four first-inning runs in his last start. He gave up six against Seattle on on Sept. 2 and six against Tampa back on Aug. 6. But in most of his other starts, he has kept Oakland in the game and realistically could have won. He had a 1-0 loss to Kansas City on Aug. 1. He lost 3-2 to the Royals on Aug. 11. He lost 4-3 to Atlanta on Aug. 16. He had no-decisions in three games where he gave up three runs once and two runs twice. And then came Tuesday night.
So that’s seven games he could have won, maybe should have won if the A’s had any offensive thrust when he took the mound. That conceivably could have put him at 20 wins.
For his age, and he’s still just 23, Gray has had a marvelous season despite a few hiccups along the way. He’s now thrown 210 innings, and he dashed any notion against the Angels that he’s wearing down. He struck out Mike Trout three times and Albert Pujols twice. He had all of his pitches working, and in this performance, offered up a killer slider he admitted he hasn’t been throwing much of late.
Even if this season limps to a disappointing finish from a team standpoint, A’s fans can take heart that this kid is going to be around for awhile and a potential staff ace for as long as he stays healthy. He has given up three runs or less in 25 of his 32 starts this year. We’ve already seen what he can do in the postseason, and he has an almost dangerous will to win.
It’s important to remember all this after yet another disappointing defeat. Not all is lost when you have a pitcher like this to build your future around.