OAKLAND -- New year, same result.
The A's lost their MLB-record ninth consecutive winner-take-all game Wednesday night, falling 5-1 to the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL Wild Card Game at the Coliseum. It was Oakland's third loss in three wild-card games, including each of the last two seasons.
"It's frustrating," A's manager Bob Melvin acknowledged after the loss. "It's very sudden. In baseball, you usually have a series to kind of have a tomorrow and come back and win a game. We've been really good this year about having a tough game and coming back and responding. There's no responding in a game like this."
After losing the 2014 and 2018 wild-card games on the road, the A's were convinced that home-field advantage would make the difference this time. While the venue changed, the ultimate outcome did not.
"You've got to take care of business in elimination games," closer Liam Hendriks said. "We weren't able to do it the last couple of years."
It didn't take long for the A's to fall behind Wednesday. Yandy Diaz's solo shot gave the Rays a 1-0 lead in the top of the first, and another homer in each of the next two innings -- including one more from Diaz -- pushed Tampa Bay's advantage to 4-0 going into the bottom of the third.
Oakland answered with an unearned run that half inning but couldn't muster any offense the rest of the way.
"You get into this wild-card game, and a lot of times, it comes down to pitching and timely hitting," Melvin said. "They got us on the run early in the game, and we really couldn't answer. ... We've won a lot of games the last couple of years. What we need to do, probably, is win the division if we want to play a longer series."
That might be tough, given the division in which Oakland plays. The AL West champion Houston Astros won the most games in MLB this season (107) and don't appear to be going anywhere anytime soon.
Of course, the A's did win the AL West in 2012 and 2013, Melvin's first two full seasons in Oakland. Still, the Green and Gold failed to advance past the ALDS, losing in back-to-back series-deciding Game 5s to the Detroit Tigers.
You have to go all the way back to 1973 to find the last time the A's won a winner-take-all game. That year, they beat the New York Mets in Game 7 of the World Series.
Since then, it has been unprecedented futility.
"I don't think we really care about that," outfielder Mark Canha said. "Those guys all came before us -- no disrespect to them -- but I don't think we were thinking about that going in. We went into this game with a lot of confidence and expecting to win, just like we do every night."
Wednesday's loss played out in an eerily similar fashion as last year's wild-card defeat to the New York Yankees. Oakland fell behind early, squandered chances with runners on base and never got back in the game.
"Kind of at the end, it felt the same, where we didn't take advantage of opportunities," third baseman Matt Chapman said. "But we never really closed that gap to give us that real chance. This one stings, for sure."
And just like last postseason, the A's offseason begins sooner than they had hoped.
"I'm proud of what they did this year," Melvin said. "We just got beat in one game, and everybody in there is pretty upset about it."