Tigers get date with shocking, streaking A's in ALDS
Don’t pretend you saw this coming.
If you thought the Tigers’ path to playoff success might have to come through the American League West champion, that’s nothing noteworthy. The two-time AL pennant-winning Texas Rangers, who ended Detroit’s postseason run in last year’s AL Championship Series, was considered the no-brain pick for the No. 1 seed throughout 90 percent of the regular season.
Until the Oakland A’s caught the Rangers on the final day of the regular season, scoring the final 11 runs of the game in a 12-5 win over the defending division champs, pulling the upset. It was their first day all season in first place, as they joined the 1951 Giants and 2006 Twins as the only teams to move into first for the first time on the final day of the season.
“That’s just it. When you talk about 2012 and Oakland A’s, you can put ‘champ’ next to it. I mean, it’s a pretty special situation,” A’s outfielder Jonny Gomes said on XM Radio’s “Home Plate” show after Wednesday’s win. “Who thought we were going to be here? Well, I know a manager (Bob Melvin) and a general manager (Billy Beane), and a whole bunch of ballplayers that knew we could.
“It took us 162, and that’s why we play them all.”
That springboards the A’s (94-68) into an AL Division Series matchup with the AL Central champion Tigers (88-74), while the Rangers (93-69) have to play the Orioles (93-69) in Friday’s Wild Card game for the right to advance and face the top-seeded Yankees (95-67) in the other ALDS.
While the Orioles provided one of the best feel-good stories of the season, so did the A’s, who trailed the Rangers by 13 games on June 30, and were 100-to-1 underdogs to win the division at the All-Star break.
No one expected them to do this.
“I mean, I can’t explain it. How can you explain it? I tell you what, though, Bob Melvin, 17 rookies, Yoenis Cespedes coming over, first time on U.S. soil. Josh Reddick getting an opportunity. Sean Doolittle pitching his first season of professional ball. ... Where do we start?” Gomes said. “There’s one thing that we all have in common, and that’s camaraderie. You take fun away from this team, and I don’t know what we got. We’re playing for fun, we’re playing for stuff like this. It’s unbelievable.”
Former Tigers infielder Brandon Inge, who is out for the season after shoulder surgery, called the A’s a “team of DHs” when he returned to Comerica Park with his new team a few weeks ago.
More than that, it seemed like a team of mismatched parts.
After trading away All-Star pitchers Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez, as well as former Rookie of the Year Andrew Bailey, the Athletics have had a rotation that’s seemed duct-taped together all season.
And that was before they lost Bartolo Colon to a drug suspension, and Brandon McCarthy to injury, after he was hit in the head with a line drive.
Just fill in another youngster.
In all the A’s got a Major League Baseball-record 53 wins from rookies this season.
They also got contributions from guys like Reddick (career-high 32 home runs, 84 RBI) and the import Cespedes (23 HR, 82 RBI), as well as a team-wide proclivity for the dramatic: Despite being shut out 16 times, the A’s won 11 of 16 extra-inning games, posted 43 come-from-behind wins, and were the only team to post more walk-off wins (14) than the Tigers.
“Remarkable. Just remarkable. What they did today, what they’ve done all season. It’s just a great story,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said in the FOX Sports Detroit postgame show after Wednesday’s season finale. “I just tip my hat to Bob Melvin and the Oakland A’s. It’s going to be two good teams, trying to advance to the big prize, and that’s what this is all about.”
No one saw it coming, though.
“Everybody up there are geniuses for picking us,” Gomes joked as a parting shot on his radio appearance.
They’re hardly the only ones to miss that pick.