Opening Day: Time to Beat the Streak


Here in Oakland, we wrote the book on streaks.

Well, we’re in the books at the very least. Even the most casual of A’s fans can recall the events of the record setting 20-game winning streak from 2002. Popularized in the film, Moneyball the streak help catapult the Athletics into postseason play and was commemorated this past season in a ceremonial weekend held at the Coliseum.

On the flip side, the 2013 Oakland Athletics are the inhabitants of a different type of streak. A streak of a dubious nature has plagued the team for multiple seasons now. Dating back to 2005, the A’s have lost the last 8 consecutive Opening Day games. Yes fans, since the beloved Arthur Rhodes closed out a 5-4 victory over the Texas Rangers on April 5th, 2004, the A’s have not had a taste of season opening glory since Friendster was the dominant social network on the web.

It’s time to end this tomfoolery. The constant letdown has created a Groundhog Day-like vortex of disappointment and frustration as the team has lost one opener after another. Now, I’m aware of the bigger picture. Opening Day is just 1 game in a long season of 162 , but for once I would like to look at the standings after the first game and see a shiny 1-0 next to the Oakland Athletics. After all, if for nothing else the importance of a single game was put on display last season with the A’s capturing the division title on the last day of the season.

For misery’s sake, I thought it be interesting to take a look at the last eight seasons of opening day futility. Interesting or masochistic.

Here they are in chronological order. Never Forget.

#1 April 4th, 2005 Oakland Athletics at Baltimore Orioles (4-0 Loss)

Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Years before the A’s and Orioles would join forces to become the Cinderella stories of 2012, they faced off in Baltimore to christen the 2005 season. In what appeared to mismatch on paper, the A’s started Barry Zito against Rodrigo Lopez of the Orioles. Despite managing 7 hits in 6 innings off the Mexican-born starter, the A’s were inexplicably unable to push a run across the board. Meanwhile, Zito served up a 2-run shot to the immortal Luis Matos and the Orioles never looked back. B.J. Ryan closed out the game without incident, and Miguel Tejada and the Orioles infield commenced with a bizarre group hug/dance performance that was never seen again as the Orioles would only win 73 more times in 2005.

#2 April 5th, 2006 New York Yankees at Oakland Athletics (15-2 Loss)

An embarrassment. In front of a packed house, Barry Zito bombed in his second consecutive opening day start. A seven-run second inning highlighted by an Alex Rodriguez Grand Slam chased Zito to the locker room, and the combination of Kirk Saarloos, Brad Halsey, and Jay Witasick failed to stop the bleeding. Offensively the A’s were largely silent against the aging Randy Johnson, with the exception of Frank Thomas who homered off the Big Unit in his first at-bat as an Athletic.

#3 April 2nd, 2007 Oakland Athletics at Seattle Mariners (4-0 Loss)

In his first of multiple opening assignment against the Athletics, Felix Hernandez overpowered A’s hitters over 8 dominant innings by registering 12 strikeouts and spoiling Bob Geren‘s first game as skipper. Dan Haren did his best to match the prodigy, but fell apart in the 6th inning as Richie Sexson‘s 3-run blast put the kibosh on his efforts. Defensively Bobby Crosby misplayed two balls for errors at short, and struck out twice in three at bats leaving very little for A’s fans to feel good about.

#4 March 25th, 2008 Boston Red Sox at Oakland Athletics (6-5 in 10 innings, Loss)

In their first foray into Japan, the underdog Athletics faced off against the reigning World Champion Boston Red Sox in the land of the rising sun. After all the hoopla and ceremonies were finished, A’s fans were forced to tune into ESPN to watch the game live at 3 AM PDT. With sleep deprived eyes, they were rewarded when Mark Ellis launched a home run off national hero Daisuke Matsuzaka in the bottom of the first. With the A’s in the lead 2-0. Joe Blanton cruised through 5 solid innings before a two-out sixth inning rally sparked by a Manny Ramirez 2-run double pushed Boston in the lead. The A’s responded when Jack Hannahan crushed a two-run homer an inning later and put the A’s back out on front 4-3, and solid middle relief contributed by former Red Sox hurlers Alan Embree and Keith Foulke provided a bridge to closer Huston Street with the lead in tact. Unfortunately, Huston had a problem with the potent Boston lineup and served a game tying homer up to future Athletic Brandon Moss. In what would be a harbinger of things to come, Geren would send Street out in extra innings, and again the closer would falter by surrendering a 2-run double to Ramirez before being replaced by Lenny Dinardo. The game would end on an even greater note of sorrow, when Emil Brown doubled in Bobby Crosby but not before being tagged out in a rundown between second and third while representing the tying run. Yikes.

#5 April 6th, 2009 Oakland Athletics at Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (3-0 Loss)

For the third time in five seasons, the A’s were shut out on opening day. This time the culprit was lefty Joe Saunders who stymied the new-look A’s lineup that featured Matt Holliday, Orlando Cabrera, and Nomar Garciaparra and managed only 3 hits on the night. In his first opening day assignment, Dallas Braden minimized damage allowing 3 earned runs over 6 innings despite being battered around for nine hits. At the end of the day, the A’s were outplayed and off to another rough start. Move along folks, nothing more to see here.

#6 April 5th, 2010 Seattle Mariners at Oakland Athletics (5-3 Loss)

This one hurt. In the second Opening Day assignment against the Athletics, Felix Hernandez was not nearly as invincible. The King was uncharacteristically wild as he walked six A’s hitters through 6 2/3, and squandered a 3-1 Mariners lead in the bottom of the 7th when a pair of RBI singles by Rajai Davis and Cliff Pennington chased him out of the game. With the game tied, the A’s sought to put themselves into a position to finally end this horrid curse that had begun to take of a life of its own. Unfortunately, curses can manifest in mysterious ways. In this case, Kevin Kouzmanoff‘s throwing error extended a Mariner rally with two-outs in the top of the 9th and loaded the bases for Casey Kotchman. The mistake proved fatal as Kotchman lined a two-run single to centerfield and the streak extended to 6.

#7 April 1st, 2011 Seattle Mariners at Oakland Athletics(6-2 Loss)

In what has become a constant, the A’s once again faced King Felix and once again lost in miserable fashion. A two-run Josh Willingham blast in the 1st inning offered false hope, and an angry Felix shut the A’s offense down over the next eight innings. Trevor Cahill had a curious start, striking out 8 and allowing only 1 earned run but tossed 105 pitches in just 4 2/3 innings. Paying him no help, was a defense that committed an Opening Day record 5 errors in the field with two by the usual suspect, Kevin Kouzmanoff. If this game wasn’t frustrating enough, Chone Figgins hit a home run making me almost want to give up watching baseball for the rest of my life.

#8 March 28th, 2012 Seattle Mariners at Oakland Athletics (3-1 in 10 innings, Loss)

Japan Redux. Felix part 4. You’ll have to forgive me for this one. Despite setting my alarms, I largely slept through this game as a heavy work schedule had me struggling to keep my eyes open throughout the unholy hours at which this game was played. In Tokyo, Dustin Ackley drew first blood with a solo homer off of Brandon McCarthy in the top of the fourth. Kurt Suzuki returned the favor, and clubbed a double off of Hernandez in the bottom of the inning and netted the score at one. Both starters would prevail until the late innings, when the bullpen took over and the game headed into extra innings. In the top of the tenth, Bob Melvin went to Andrew Carignan who surrendered the eventually game-winnner to Ackley once again on an RBI single, and was promptly replaced by Jerry Blevins who was greeted by an RBI single by Ichiro Suzuki which sealed the victory for Seattle.