On the final day of the 2000 season, and after eight years of cellar finishes, the Oakland Athletics had the chance to clinch the AL West and return to the post season for the first time since 1992.
On an autumn Sunday at the Network Associates Coliseum, the 90-70 Oakland Athletics were facing off against the last-place Texas Rangers. The A’s had taken the first two games of the series and were holding on to a half-game lead over the Seattle Mariners who had ended up holding on to first place the majority of the season.
At stake was an ALDS bid with the second place team in contention with the Cleveland Indians for the wild card berth. With an earlier one game cancellation in the season, the A’s needed not to worry about a makeup game because they held all tie breakers with a win.
In 2000, the Art Howe managed A’s were loaded with homegrown talent consisting of sluggers Jason Giambi (who later became the 2001 MVP), Miguel Tejada (who later became the 2002 MVP), and Eric Chavez, along with an ace pitching staff of the “Big Three,” consisting of Tim Hudson, Barry Zito (the 2002 Cy Young Award winner), and Mark Mulder (who was caught by Ramon Hernandez).
Hudson was the most dominant of the three, was on the mound that afternoon on Oct. 1 seeking his 20th victory to become the first Oakland 20-game winner in 10 seasons since both Dave Stewart (22) and Bob Welch (27) in 1990.
Hudson and the Rangers pitcher, Ryan Glynn, kept bats quiet, shutting down any rallies when runners did get aboard. Through seven innings, Hudson had allowed only three hits and walked one.
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In the bottom of the seventh, with two out, Jason Giambi doubled down the right field line. On the next pitch, Hernandez sent a sharp single to center plating Giambi beating the throw home, giving the A’s a 1-0 lead.
In the top of the eighth, the Rangers threatened with a two-out Royce Clayton double. Howe ordered slugger Rafael Palmeiro to intentionally walk, and Hudson was able to get left fielder Chad Curtis to hit a weak grounder to shortstop Tejada who fed to Randy Velarde at second base to end the inning.
Needing some insurance, the A’s added on in the eighth when Velarde took a 2-1 fastball over the left field wall for a 2-0 A’s lead and knocking Glynn out of the game. Two batters later, Olmedo Saenz, pinch hitting for Matt Stairs, took the first pitch off reliever Tim Crabtree into the seats, giving the Athletics a comfortable 3-0 lead for closer Jason Isringhausen.
Isringhausen, entering with 32 saves on the season, got Ricky Ledee to fly to Bo Porter in right field, but then allowed singles to Pedro Valdes and Mike Lamb. With the Rangers threatening, Insringhausen got Scott Sheldon to foul out to Chavez at third base and then got Frank Catalanotto on four pitches, looking for strike three and an AL West Championship.
The A’s celebrated the victory on the field and later took laps around the field high-fiving with fans and carrying A’s flags tossed from the bleachers. A 10-year drought had ended.
The A’s would go into the ALCS and take a 2-0 lead against the New York Yankees, but end up losing the series. The following years the corps group of players would help the A’s make the playoffs four of the next six seasons, finishing a season no lower than second place.