KANSAS CITY – On a night that should have belonged to Brandon Moss, the A’s experienced the ultimate heartbreak in the American League Wild Card game.
They let a four-run lead slip away and eventually lost 9-8 to the Kansas City Royals in 12 innings on Salvador Perez’s walk-off single down the third base line.
With that, the Royals advanced to the American League Division Series against the Los Angeles Angels. The A’s saw their season abruptly end, wondering how a night shaping up so nicely could turn so horribly wrong.
It was an incredible game to open the 2014 postseason. For the A’s, it was the bitterest of ways to see their season end.
The A’s actually let two different leads slip away, which was a shame because Moss delivered an historic performance. He became the first player in A’s history to homer twice and have five RBI in a single postseason game. That spearheaded a 13-hit A’s attack.
But the A’s watched a 7-3 lead evaporate, then couldn’t hold an 8-7 lead after taking the lead in the top of the 12th.
Eric Hosmer tripled in the bottom half on a deep fly to left center on which Sam fuld and Jonny Gomes collided in mid-air. Then Christian Colon chopped an infield single to tie it. After Jason Hammel relieved Fernando Abad, Perez lined a 2-2 pitch past a diving Josh Donaldson at third to send a crowd of 40,502 into delirium at Kauffman Stadium.
Starting pitching report
Jon Lester went 7 1/3 innings and wound up charged with six runs. That’s as many as he allowed in five combined starts last postseason for the Boston Red Sox. The lefty simply didn’t have the sharpness he showed during all of the regular season.
After he gave up the three early runs, Lester righted the ship and retired 12 in a row from the third to the seventh. But equipped with a 7-3 lead entering the eighth, he allowed two singles and a walk – including Lorenzo Cain’s RBI hit – and gave way to Luke Gregerson. Two of Lester’s charged runs came with Gregerson on the hill, so Lester’s damage wasn’t totally his doing.
He gave up eight hits over his 7 1/3 innings, walking two and striking out five.
The tide started shifting against the A’s with Lester still on the mound, but Gregerson contributed to the mess before pulling a highwire act to finally end the eighth.
He entered a 7-4 game with runners on first and second and one out. Billy Butler’s RBI single to right-center shaved the lead to two, and when Gregerson threw a wild pitch that scored Eric Hosmer, the A’s lead was 7-6. But with the tying run 90 feet away, Gregerson struck out Salvador Perez and Omar Infante, getting both to chase sliders out of the strike zone.
Sean Doolittle came on looking to close it out in the ninth. But Josh Willingham led off with a pinch-hit single. Jarrod Dyson pinch-ran for him and advanced to second on Alcides Escobar’s sacrifice bunt. He stole third base and scored the tying run on Nori Aoki’s sacrifice fly.
Alberto Callaspo put the A’s ahead 8-7 in the top of the 12th, but Dan Otero, Abad and Hammel couldn’t hold it in the 12th.
At the plate
With two swings of the bat, Moss authored one of the most memorable postseason performances by any Athletic, in any season.
The common logic was that the A’s hopes rode on the left arm of Lester, who matched up against Royals ace James Shields in what was expected to be a classic pitchers’ duel.
But Moss drilled a two-run homer off Shields in the top of the first. Lester, who entered with a 1.97 ERA in 11 career postseason starts, gave up three runs over the first three innings and the A’s trailed 3-2.
But after Shields was pulled in the sixth, on a controversial decision by Royals manager Ned Yost, the A’s struck for five runs and batted around in the sixth to take a commanding 7-3 lead.
Shields was yanked after Sam Fuld singled and Josh Donaldson walked, having thrown just 88 pitches. Yost called upon hard-throwing Yordano Ventura, but Moss worked the count to 2-0 and crushed a three-run shot to straightaway center to put the A’s up by four.
But then the roller coaster ride began.
In the field
The A’s lost catcher Geovany Soto to a left thumb injury in the third inning. Derek Norris replaced him behind the plate, and the Royals proceeded to steal seven bases on the night, many of which keyed scoring rallies.
The announced turnout was 40,502.
The A’s will head their separate ways for the offseason, wondering how they gave away a chance to advanceto their third consecutive A.L. Division Series.