OAKLAND Of course. Of course this happened. How could such a marvelous, magical, maybe even mythical season have ended with a baserunning blunder?
Runner on second, two out.
Bottom of the ninth.
The eminently embraceable A's did it again. Coco Crisp whose botched attempted basket catch cost the A's dearly in Game 2 ripped the first pitch into right field, bringing Seth Smith home with the winning run, creating a mob scene around the veteran center fielder near first base, and sending another sold out Coliseum crowd into a frenzy.
"We're never out of it until the last out," manager Bob Melvin said after the latest remarkable turn of events. "We've been in plenty of (these) situations, though probably no more than tonight. They have their closer on the mound. The game was going in their direction. But we have some very intense at-bats late in game, especially here at home. We just don't feel like it's going to end."
Well, it didn't. Despite one horrific base-running blunder Stephen Drew caught trying to stretch a double into a triple and killing a potential huge rally in the sixth the A's striking out 12 times and finally running up against a starter (Max Scherzer) who pitched better than theirs (A.J. Griffin), Melvin's unique assemble of youngsters and veterans prevailed.
And what a ninth. Josh Reddick led off with a single. Josh Donaldson and Seth Smith followed with consecutive doubles, setting up Crisp for the A's loudest, most dramatic single in a long, long, long time.
They deserved this, deserved to go the ALDS distance, deserved their chance today against Tigers ace Justin Verlander. Truly they did. Despite injuries and freak accidents (Brandon McCarthy) and what seems like a zillion roster changes, these A's were compelling and competitive and, yes, yes, yes, eminently embraceable.
Tarp or no tarp on the upper deck and the tarp remained in place for the two home games despite impassioned grumbling by the fans they left their fans pleading for one more rally, one more walk-off victory, one more game.
The 2012 narrative is so unusual, the success so highly improbable, that the elements are worth repeating, among them these: the series of offseason moves that sent Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill and closer Andrew Bailey elsewhere and brought back a haul of 10 new players to Oakland; the re-signing of Crisp and, after Billy Beane arm-twisted managing partner Lew Wolff into submission, the signing of rookie star Yoenis Cespedes to a $38 million contract massive bucks for a notoriously tightfisted ownership group; the repeated raiding of the River Cats and the impressive transition of Donaldson from catcher to third base and Brandon Moss from the outfield to first.
Later, there was Cliff Pennington's seamless shift from shortstop to second to accommodate Drew, who was acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks only in August, and Brett Anderson's return after a lengthy absence and Tommy John surgery.
"It's a very selfless group," said Melvin. "Everybody has bought into it. It's a credit to the players and their willingness their understanding that we're trying to to do the best thing for the team and just worry about winning and losing and keeping it current."
The A's steal bases and strike out a ton, are daring and at times impatient, earlier Wednesday evening, perhaps even a little desperate (see Drew). They set a league strikeout record and hit a meager .238 during the season.
But today it's another rookie (Jarrod Parker), another game, another opportunity. Of course. Of course it was going to happen.