“We’re in!,” declared manager Bob Melvin following the A’s regular season finale Sunday afternoon.
Indeed, it may have taken a full 162 games, but the A’s finally punched their ticket to the Post Season on the strength of Sonny Gray’s second career complete game shutout Sunday afternoon in a 4-0 defeat of the Texas Rangers.
Brandon Moss doubled to lead off the top half of the second inning and came around to score one batter later on Josh Reddick’s RBI triple to center field. Reddick came across to score the second run of the inning on Stephen Vogt’s RBI single, also to center field, following a Jed Lowrie pop out, giving Oakland a 2-0 lead.
The A’s added a pair of insurance runs in the top of the ninth inning on a Lowrie single that scored Billy Burns and Sam Fuld to push the score to the 4-0 final.
Gray, who tossed a career-high 12 strikeouts in a losing effort in his last start against the Angels, was dominant Sunday afternoon in the regular season finale.
Gray pitched the complete game, scattering six hits and walking none, while collecting six strikeouts in his 14th victory of the season.
“Sonny was in a different kind of place today. Just an unbelievable outing for him,” closer Sean Doolittle said of his teammate.
Reddick and Geovany Soto each collected a pair of hits for the A’s, and Moss, Lowrie and Vogt collected the A’s other three hits to account for their seven hits on the day.
With the win, the A’s clinched their third consecutive playoff appearance, earning a trip to Kansas City to face the Royals in the Wild Card game on Tuesday.
The fact that it took the A’s to game number 162 was a bit of a surprise considering they were the best team in baseball up through the July trade deadline. The A’s went through a monumental collapse through August and September that saw them give up a four game lead in the division, and scrape by two losing months, their first losing months in over a year, to back into the playoffs on the last day of the season.
“We’ve been through hell and back,” Sean Doolittle told MLB.com’s Jane Lee following the game, referencing their late season struggles.
“There have been a lot of ups and downs this year,” added Lowrie, “but we punched our ticket, and that’s all that matters.”
The A’s definitely seemed like a team that had lost their way the past two months. The once easy going, always confident team appeared to be playing with a defeated attitude during their two month slide.
Now, following a cleansing champagne shower, the A’s are confident they can erase the memories of Game 5 defeats at the hands of the Detroit Tigers and Justin Verlander the past two seasons with a different entrance into the post season this season.
“I’ve been saying the last two weeks, if we get in, the last two months would be forgotten. And now I can say that with confidence,” said Reddick. “All the naysayers and the negative vibes, they’re all gone now. We got in. I’ve been saying it for months — two division titles, out Game 5, get in with the Wild Card, Win the whole thing.”
If the A’s do “win the whole thing,” as Reddick said, it will begin Tuesday afternoon in Kansas City in the win-or-go-home game with their ace, Jon Lester, toeing the rubber against “Big Game” James Shields for the Royals.
The winner of the Wild Card play-in game will head to Anaheim to take on the Los Angeles Angels in the best of five American League Division Series.
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