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The Streak

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Last night the Oakland A’s beat the Seattle Mariners 4-0 and by doing so have tied a Major League record with 15 consecutive wins over a divisional opponent (Braves turned the trick against the Padres in 1974). On the season the A’s are 53-51 against everyone besides the Mariners while on the flip side the Mariners are 55-49 against everyone besides the A’s. The A’s dominance of the Mariners has now put them a position that didn’t seem possible just a few weeks earlier and that is a commanding lead in the A.L. West. Now it was just four years ago around this time of year that the A’s were in the middle of another streak, one of much more historic importance that I was able to see in person.

 

On August 12th, 2002 the A’s lost the Toronto Blue Jays 2-1 at home dropping themselves 4 and a half games back of the first place Mariners. They wouldn’t lose another game until 24 days later. The following night an Eric Chavez two run single in the 7th broke a 3-3 tie, Billy Koch made it interesting in the 9th as he usually did but the A’s held on for a 5-4 win. They’d take the rubber match 4-2 the next day. That Friday on the 16th I went to the game with my brother as the A’s played the White Sox, the first of three games I’d attend during the streak not that I had any idea at the time what had started. Jermaine Dye led off the 2nd with a homerun and that would be enough for Cory Lidle and three relievers as the A’s went on to win 1-0. After sweeping the White Sox that weekend they headed to Cleveland for four games. The Indians would hardly put up a fight as the A’s outscored them 29-7 during the four game sweep and left Cleveland in a tie for first now with the Mariners. Next up was a trip Detroit. The A’s crushed the hapless Tigers 9-1 and 12-3 for wins #10 and #11 in the streak and the Mariners had lost both days giving the A’s a two game lead now in the West, a six and a half game swing in a span of 11 games. But in the finale in Detroit it appeared the streak would come to an end. In the 4th starter Aaron Harang was tagged for five runs, capped by a Randall Simon three run homer off reliever Micah Bowie to give the Tigers a 7-2 lead. A’s were still down 7-3 going into the 8th but it was in that inning that you got the feeling this streak wasn’t going to end anytime soon. Greg Myers led off the inning with a homerun, Chavez would hit a two run double a few batters later to cut the lead to a run, and then John Mabry followed with another two run double to give the A’s the lead. They tacked two more runs on in the 9th on a Dye homer and the A’s would win 10-7 for win #12. Off to Kansas City next for a fairly easy sweep to cap a 10-0 road trip and head home with a 15 game winning streak.

 

Now while on this was going on baseball involved in another labor dispute. My Dad and I had tickets to the A’s return game from the road trip on Friday the 30th against the Twins but there was potentially not going to be a game at all as the player’s were set to go on strike the day before if a labor deal was not agreed on. Obviously the A’s had probably more to lose than any team if a strike happened both on the field and at the box office. But for the first time a very, very long time the player’s union compromised with the owners and a strike was avoided. That following night there was a bit of a buzz in the crowd as the A’s closed in the American League record of 19 straight wins held by the ’06 White Sox and ’47 Yankees but at the same time you didn’t get the sense that people thought it would happen. It didn’t help that Jacque Jones would hit the first pitch of the game from Tim Hudson into the right field seats. But Ray Durham would answer with his lead off homerun in the bottom of the inning and the A’s would eventually win 4-2 for win #16. The next day I was off to Tahoe for the weekend for my brother’s bachelor party and I would miss three remarkable games by the A’s, not that I really noticed beyond catching a few highlights at the casinos. A’s won Saturday 6-3, after Ricardo Rincon had coughed up the lead in the top of the 8th they had answered with three runs in the bottom of inning to get the win. With the A’s now two wins shy of tying the record, they would start a streak of three straight games that they would win in their last at bat. Koch would blow a 5-2 lead in the 9th giving up homeruns to Corey Koskie and Micahel Cuddyer. But with two out and one on in the bottom of the 9th, Miguel Tejada hit a walkoff homerun against Eddie Guardado for the 7-5 win. Kansas City came in for Labor Day the next day for a brief two game “series.” The A’s blew yet another late inning lead but Tejada would get the game winning hit again after the A’s loaded the bases for a 7-6 win and tie the A.L. record with 19 straight wins.

 

I came home from Tahoe on Tuesday morning the 3rd and the A’s had an odd off day between the two home games that day. For whatever reasons I hadn’t even thought about going to the game the next night and I was surprised about two hours before the game my Dad asks me if I want to the game but I was like “sure, why not?” Now a weeknight game against the Royals wasn’t going to have much of a presale so we weren’t too concerned about tickets even if we knew there would be a huge walk up because of the possibility witnessing baseball history. I thought that a lot of the walk up would be people getting off work and buying tickets right before the opening pitch. But apparently people were there all day long getting tickets and everything outside of Mount Davis was sold out by the time we got to the game. For those unfamiliar Mount Davis is the football monstrosity that was erected in the outfield of the Oakland Coliseum back in 1996 in place of the old school bleachers. I had never sat on top of Mount Davis and I’ll never do it again unless the A’s get to the World Series. There’s little to no sarcasm in me saying that you have a better view of San Francisco up there than you do of the field. A good portion of the outfield is obstructed so we had to pretty much rely on what the rest of the crowd did to figure what happened on long fly balls. But bad seats aside the game started out as good as anyone could hope for. By the end of the 3rd inning the A’s had torched Paul Byrd and Darrell May for an 11-0 lead. The A.L. record was in the bag. Even when the Royals scored five in the 4th there was still none of the 55,000+ at the game who was worried at all and as the 11-5 lead held most of us just wanted the game to end as soon as possible so we could see the celebration. Then came the 8th with Chad Bradford in the game for the A’s.

 

Brent Mayne walked.

Emil Brown walked.

Neifi Perez singled.

Luis Ordaz reaches on fielder’s choice, no out recorded, Mabry scores, 11-6.

 

Bradford was lifted for Rincon and at this point my Dad and I started to head down the ramps to get down the field level area and watch the rest of the game standing behind the field level seats. Still not that worried but wishing they would stop this from getting too interesting. Now it is a long ass walk down Mount Davis to field level and Michael Tucker struck out while we were walking but as we reached the bottom a large portion of the stadium groaned…Royals just scored again on a Carlos Beltran sac fly. But there were now two out and the A’s were still up 11-7. Rincon was lifted for Jeff Tam and we finally settled on a spot to watch the rest of the game. Any remaining thoughts that the A’s still had this under control soon went out the window. Mike Sweeney crushed one down the left field line and it was now 11-10. It was at that point that I let out a loud “FUCK!” and got a dirty look from some old lady. It was also at that time that Billy Beane was in the A’s clubhouse breaking several things. Thankfully Raul Ibanez grounded out to ended the inning but you suddenly now didn’t even care about the record and were more worried about the A’s being part of a different record by blowing an 11-0 lead. A’s went quietly in the 8th and it was now up to Koch. Joe Randa led off with a single and Mayne bunted him over to 2nd. Koch though would strike out Brown and got two strikes on Luis Alicea…this was it, the 20th straight win! Or not. Alicea singles. Randa scores. Tie game 11-11.

 

The sound you heard in the Coliseum was 55,000+ people being punched in the stomach at the same time. You just couldn’t believe what had happened. A team with a 19 game winning streak, playing one of the worst team’s in baseball, just blew an 11-0 lead. Now faced with possibly extra innings and the A’s bullpen almost completely exhausted, things couldn’t be grimmer. Against Jason Grimsely, Dye led off the night with a harmless fly out. Scott Hatteberg came up to pinch hit for Eric Byrnes. Grimsley missed with the first pitch and then….

 

IPB Image

 

IPB Image

 

IPB Image

 

Everyone knew it was gone the second it left his bat. I've never been one to start celebrating and high fiving complete strangers at sporting events but you couldn't help it here. In an instant this had gone from the worst game I've ever been to, to the best game I've ever been to.

 

Two days later in Minnesota the streak was over. Exactly one month later the Twins would end the A's season in another dissapointing, heartbreaking playoff ALDS loss by the A's and the streak was forgotten. But it is kind of cool to know that I was able to watch some true baseball history in person.

 

The Streak (* - Game I saw in person)

 

#1: A's 5, Blue Jays 4

#2: A's 4, Blue Jays 2

#3: A's 1, White Sox 0*

#4: A's 9, White Sox 2

#5: A's 7, White Sox 4

#6: A's 8, Indians 1

#7: A's 6, Indians 3

#8: A's 6, Indians 0

#9: A's 9, Indians 3

#10: A's 9, Tigers 1

#11: A's 12, Tigers 3

#12: A's 10, Tigers 7

#13: A's 6, Royals 3

#14: A's 6, Royals 4

#15: A's 7, Royals 1

#16: A's 4, Twins 2*

#17: A's 6, Twins 3

#18: A's 7, Twins 5

#19: A's 7, Royals 6

#20: A's 12, Royals 11*

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That's the one chapter in the book that I will every once in a while go back and reread.

I re-read the section on the draft often, because few books really take you behind the scenes of the process the way Moneyball did. The section on fielding stats though is entirely uninteresting.

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