In 2012, the Oakland Athletics made it to the postseason by shear luck. They played a touch series against the Detroit Tigers but the young and inexperienced time ultimately lost in game five and did move onto the American League Championship Series. The 2013 season was different. The Athletics started out strong and continued to dominate as the season stretched on. Even though their success dipped in late July and August, they regained momentum in September. They ended the season with the second best record in the American League behind the Boston Red Sox.
Last year’s ammature lineup had grown into a a hard-hitting, defensively gifted team. They were ready to take on the Detroit Tigers once again, but this time, they were ready to win. The Athletics won the first two games while the Tigers took game three and four. Once again, these two teams met for game five to see who would move on to the ALCS.
The Oakland Athletics had rookie Sonny Gray on the mound while the Tigers had ace Justin Verlander. Gray had out pitched Verlander in game two when he went eight innings and only allowed four hits while striking out nine. Verlander only went seven innings during that game and the A’s won with a walk-off hit in the bottom of the ninth. When asked why Manager Bob Melvin did not put veteran and 2013 star pitcher Bartolo Colon on the mound, he said felt comfortable putting in the rookie since Gray was as fearless as a “bulldog.”
But Gray got off to a rocky start right in the beginning. He was not as sharp as he had previously been and racked up six hits and a two run home run by the fourth inning. He could not seem to hit the strike zone and ultimately only struck out three Tigers. Gray was pulled in the sixth inning after Victor Martinez and Jhonny Peralta both singled.
Dan Otero came in to relieve Gray, but the damage had already been done. The Tigers scored one more run in the the sixth and led the Athletics 3-0.
Even though the Athletics’ defensive was pretty much on point, their bats could not catch up with Justin Verlander’s pitches. He threw off the batters by rarely throwing the same pitch twice in a row, his fastball was like a bullet to the catcher’s glove, and his nasty curve ball dropped right into the strike zone at the last minute. Verlander struck out ten over the eight innings that he pitched. He racked up 111 pitches and 76 of them were strikes. To say he was on fire is an understatement.
When Verlander left after the eighth inning, the Athletics’ lineup was relieved. They were excited to face a new pitcher since Verlander had shut down many of the hard hitters in the Athletics lineup. The Tigers brought in closer Joaquin Benoit in close out the bottom of the ninth.
But Benoit did not give the Athletics much wiggle room. Coco Crisp grounded out to second and Josh Donaldson struck out swinging. With one out remaining, the Athletics needed something big to happen. And Jed Lowrie did just that.
Lowrie doubled to left field. Then Yoenis Cespedes was hit by a pitch. With two Athletics on base, Seth Smith stepped up to the plate looking to hit the tying home run. After battling off the first few pitches, Smith readied himself for his big moment. He stepped toward the mound and took a giant swing, but, instead of blasting one over the back wall, it popped straight up to center field. Tiger’s centerfielder Austin Jackson caught the pop fly to make the last out. The Oakland Athletics lost to the Detroit Tigers 3-0.
The Oakland Athletics had a great run this year. They proved that even though they might have one of the lowest payrolls, most underdog players, and smelliest ballpark, they could still be a dominant team in the American League. This year’s dugout was such a powerhouse team that it will be interesting to see what happens in the postseason. Many of the player’s contracts are up and we all know that Billy Beane is not about to give them much more money for their outstanding performance this season. One thing is for sure, the 2013 team was one of the most successful teams that Oakland has seen in awhile.