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ARLINGTON, Texas – There was no reason to camp in front of a flat screen TV and hope the Seattle Mariners would lose.
The A’s finally took all the “control our own destiny” talk and made it stand in a 4-0 victory over the Rangers on Sunday that clinched a Wild Card berth for Oakland.
The postgame celebration included a lot of euphoria, a lot of laughs, and no doubt a healthy dose of relief as well.
The A’s had gone from being considered World Series favorites, to seeing the Los Angeles Angels blitz past them in the American League West standings, to scratching and clawing just to secure one of the A.L.’s two Wild Card spots.
Their well-documented second-half free fall was being considered by some as potentially the biggest collapse by a team in major league history if they didn’t qualify for the playoffs. How much all that talk affected them is unknown, but there’s no doubt the A’s were pressing as a group as the losses mounted.
A burden was lifted as the A’s nailed down a Wild Card berth in the 162nd and final game of the regular season.
“Coming out and playing the way we did (Sunday), I think it says a lot about this team after everything we’ve been through over the last month-and-a-half,” closer Sean Doolittle said. “In a way, it makes (the celebration) mean every bit as much as the last couple years.”
In 2012 and 2013, the A’s celebrated back-to-back division titles by clinching at the Coliseum. This season, they started out on fire and held the major leagues’ best record as late as Aug. 15. But from the All-Star break on, they were just 29-38, including 16-30 since Aug. 10.
The consensus in the clubhouse after Sunday’s victory was that nailing down a playoff spot provides a clean slate for the A’s as they prepare to play the Kansas City Royals in Tuesday’s wild card game.
“There was a lot of weight on our shoulders leading up to this,” manager Bob Melvin said. “For a team to have 14 consecutive winning months, and to play two months in the fashion that we did was tough. It was foreign territory, and perplexing to everybody. Hopefully to get this weight off our shoulders we’ll get back to doing the things we do and have done consistently. And it showed up today.”
The A’s showed a glimpse of their first-half form with Sonny Gray’s shutout performance on the mound, and by making the most of the seven hits they collected off Nick Martinez and two Texas relievers. As the A’s prepare for the Royals and try for a third consecutive trip to the A.L. Division Series, the hot streak that right fielder Josh Reddick finds himself on is a promising sign.
As many of his teammates have scuffled of late, Reddick finished the regular season hitting .485 (16-for-33) with nine RBI in 10 games.
While his teammates celebrated around him, Reddick conducted a clubhouse interview while holding a cigar and wearing just a T-shirt and superhero-themed underwear.
“Superman, Green Lantern, Flash …” Reddick said of the characters represented on his underwear.
Shortstop Jed Lowrie could only chuckle at his teammate.
“Um …. I’ve seen it far too often,” Lowrie said. “Hey, whatever it takes. If that’s what it takes him to get hot, then where it on the field. I don’t care.”
For the first time in a while, Sunday was a day the A’s could let loose.