The Oakland Athletics postseason journey begins at the Coliseum on Wednesday night against the Tampa Bay Rays, a journey that will give the Green and Gold a shot at avenges all their past playoff failures.
When the National League Wild Card Game began, the Washington Nationals had never advanced in the playoffs since they moved to D.C.
It took a three-run comeback in the bottom of the eighth against one of the best relievers in the sport on the back of their franchise’s best player (Ryan Zimmerman) and the face of their future (Juan Soto) to win the Wild Card Game and get over the hump.
After 30 seasons of pain, starting Wednesday night against the Tampa Bay Rays at the Coliseum the Oakland Athletics will get a chance to exorcise their own playoff demons.
Since 1990, when Tony La Russa’s A’s lost to the Cincinnati Reds in the World Series, the Green and Gold have won one playoff series (2006 ALDS over the Minnesota Twins) and been tormented by the same foes they will likely face this postseason.
They have lost two consecutive Wild Card Games (2014 and 2018) in devastating fashion, losing in 11 innings to the Royals in 2014 and losing 7-2 in New York in 2018 while leaving nine runners on base.
In six of the previous seven playoff appearances, they lost in five games in the ALDS, twice to the Detroit Tigers and twice to the New York Yankees.
If they can get past the Rays and win their first winner-take-all game since Game 7 of the 1973 World Series (which they also won at The Coliseum), they will face Justin Verlander and the Houston Astros.
Verlander has abused A’s batters and fans since his rookie season, going 4-0 in five starts (four in Oakland) against the Athletics, amassing a 1.24 ERA (four earned runs given up) and 0.85 WHIP over 36.33 IP with 49 strikeouts. In two consecutive seasons, Verlander shutout the A’s in Oakland in game five of the ALDS to eliminate them from the playoffs. The only time his team has lost a game he started against the A’s was in 2013, when Sonny Gray spun eight shutout innings of his own and Stephen Vogt walked it off for a 1-0 win.
If they can somehow beat Verlander, Cole, Greinke and the most well-rounded offense in the MLB, they will likely face the Yankees.
Their best roster since the 1988-90 run, their early-2000s “Moneyball” team with an MVP Miguel Tejada and a Big Three starting rotation, lost in five games in two straight years to the Yankees dynasty, punctuated by three straight losses after the legendary Jeter flip in 2001. Oakland is actually 0-4 all-time in the playoffs against the Yankees, including a 3-0 loss in the 1981 ALCS.
It doesn’t end there. If they can unpredictably run the gauntlet of two 100-win teams who have dominated the A’s, they will likely face the Los Angeles Dodgers, who famously beat the Green and Gold (who were then often wearing gray) in 1988 on the back of one of the five or 10 greatest moments in MLB history.
This team and its fan base have been tortured for 30 years, and as we have seen, it often takes modern miracles to overcome past postseason failures. They have a chance to exorcise their demons this season.