There are teams who have had post-season frustrations equal to those of the A’s – the Mariners, for example, who haven’t been there in almost two decades, and the Twins, who have lost 18 consecutive postseason games.
Until Wednesday, the A’s were willing to match their postseason angst with anybody’s. Four consecutive losses in wild card games, for example. And not getting out of the first round in five tries since 2006.
That was all washed away by Wednesday’s 5-3 win over the White Sox and pitting Oakland and Chicago in a win-or-go-home Game 3 Thursday in the Coliseum at noon.
Most of the key players on the A’s had been part of one or both of the two one-and-done exits in the postseason the last two years. That prepped them to enjoy Wednesday, although Oakland still has to win Thursday’s noon game to advance.
“This year it’s different with no fans, but that pressure of every pitch is there; you feel that still,” Marcus Semien said. The shortstop crushed a two-run second-inning homer off Dallas Keuchel to help stake the A’s to a 4-0 lead. That got the dugout excited. So did Khris Davis’ subsequent homer in the fourth. That elevated the commanding lead to 5-0.
“This was my first playoff win. This was Matt Olson’s first playoff win. This is a lot of these guys’ first playoff win. It feels good, and we’re hungry for more wins. I think that tomorrow, anything can happen. It’s just like Game 7. We just want to play out game and have a good play against whoever we face and see what happens.”
The A’s had taken a 2-0 lead in the first inning on a bases-loaded smash from Olson that took a bad hop past second baseman Nick Madrigal. It was ruled an error although A’s manager Bob Melvin said “in my scorebook it was a hit.” No matter. The A’s had two runs after getting just one run and three hits on Tuesday’s opener.
That pressure having eased. Semien delivered in the second, a gargantuan shot to center. On his was around the bases, he was able to wave to his wife and kids, who in this series are, for the first time this year, in the stadium to watch dad from the socially isolated splendor of luxury boxes in center field.
“My sons and Tara, my wife, had been at every game last year,” Semien said. “They’re usually sitting in our family section. You know I made sure to make eye contact with them, especially when I’m in a tough spot or just not feeling good. They keep me grounded,
“I saw them cheering and it was kind of a perfect time to acknowledge them.”
At the same time, the A’s dugout was acknowledging Semien, going more than a little nuts with the lead having doubled to 4-0.
In the fourth inning, when Davis, who had struggled mightily to cast off the residue of a terrible start to 2020, homered, it was like Christmas.
“For the last month, I know he hasn’t played much, but I promise you, the guys in the clubhouse are like, `Man, the explosion in your bat is back,” starting pitcher Chris Bassitt said. “I think he’s truly starting to believe it, too. He has worked his butt off to get back to where he was.”
Davis was the 2018 American League homer champ with 48 and was on pace again with 10 homers in his first 35 games last year before running into a wall chasing a foul ball in Pittsburgh. He came back to play, but was never the same. And after a slow start this year, the A’s didn’t feel they could let him play his way out of his funk, so he became a mostly-against-lefties specialist.
“Him running into the dang wall and messing with his oblique and upper rib cage affected him for quite some time,” Bassitt said. “The last month, his BP and his at-bats during games, I’m like `You’re there. You’re back, you look like you truly are back.’ So, it’s exciting to see him get back and hopefully he just stays hot for us.”
Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3
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