OAKLAND -- For the second straight year, the A's earned a trip to the postseason only to see it end in just one game.
That's a tough pill to swallow for a team that won 97 games in back-to-back seasons, but the A's know that if they want to guarantee themselves a series next year, they can't afford to settle for a wild-card spot.
"The format is the format," Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. "If we want to get out of that format, we have to win some more games. Now, we have a tough division. We probably have the best team in baseball in our division. But the focus next year will be to win more games and try to win our division."
Of course, Melvin is referencing the Houston Astros, who won 107 games this season, the most in MLB. Dethroning the three-time defending AL West champions certainly won't be easy, but the A's do have what it takes.
The key for Oakland will be getting off to a better start to the season. Each of the last two years, the A's have come out sluggish in their first 70 games, going 34-36 in 2018 and 36-34 in 2019.
To their credit, the Green and Gold caught fire in the second half of each season, going 54-27 in their final 81 games both years. That was good enough to capture a wild-card position, but not to catch the Astros.
Next season, it will be imperative for Oakland to play up to its capability right from day one. The Astros are likely to lose All-Star starting pitcher Gerrit Cole in free agency, and maybe one of these days the aging process will actually apply to 36-year-old Justin Verlander. But regardless, Houston still figures to win at least 100 games.
The A's are more than capable of surpassing the century mark themselves, particularly with Jesús Luzardo, Sean Manaea, and Frankie Montas in the starting rotation for a full season. They just have to find a way to start the season the way they've finished the last two.
Otherwise, Oakland may very well find itself in the AL Wild Card Game for the third straight year. And as we've seen, all bets are off in that one.