Wild Card Game

A's elimination-game futility continues in AL wild-card loss to Rays

A's elimination-game futility continues in AL wild-card loss to Rays

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."

[RELATED: Full-throated A's fans pack Coliseum during wild-card loss]

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."

Why Sean Manaea blames self for rough start in A's wild-card loss to Rays

Why Sean Manaea blames self for rough start in A's wild-card loss to Rays

​OAKLAND -- Sean Manaea sat at the table in the A's clubhouse, surrounded by teammates eating steak and pasta. 

The A's pitcher stared into space. I couldn’t tell if he had a plate of food in front of him, but it didn’t matter. I doubt he would have taken a bite.

After Oakland's devastating 5-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL Wild Card Game, he was the hardest on himself. 

"It stinks," he told reporters postgame in the clubhouse. "This one sucks. I don't even know how to describe it, it's a tough loss and it's lost solely on me. I had one job and I did poorly, really poorly, and I let everyone down and it sucks. But hopefully we can learn from these kinds of things and move on from there."

Manaea gave up four hits, including three homers, in two innings Wednesday. He didn't walk any batters and struck out five, but the A's trailed 4-0 when he left the game.

Before Wednesday, Manaea was surging in his return from shoulder surgery, dominating his five September starts. He posted a 1.21 ERA, 0.78 WHIP and 30 strikeouts in 30 innings.

That's why Manaea got the ball in the one-and-done game.

"I don't know if you call it a rollercoaster, just started out of rehab and I just worked my way back up here and then -- yeah, it just sucks that it ended so quickly," Manaea said.

He added that the A's worked hard to get to October, and they trusted him to get the job done.

Manaea didn't, but the amount of hugs he received from his teammates in a somber postgame clubhouse assures they still trust him.

[RELATED: A's can't explain disappearing offense]

Those embraces had a soundtrack of Manaea's teammates using packing-tape dispensers, but he continued to look straight ahead.

He stared at nothing, but those around him could see his teammates still had his back. I doubt any of them lost sleep knowing they sent the right guy to the mound. 

A's fans stay loud, proud during another heartbreaking wild-card loss

A's fans stay loud, proud during another heartbreaking wild-card loss

OAKLAND -- The fans were loud from start to finish. All wild-card game-record-breaking 54,005 of them.

Prior to the A's heartbreaking 5-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday night, there was a fluster of media presence, including an accidental elevator share with Alex Rodriguez and watching ESPN's "Sunday Night Baseball" do interviews with A's third baseman Matt Chapman and manager Bob Melvin.

Not quite what we're acccustomed to during a mid-week game at the Coliseum, but we embraced it.

Fans in the left-field bleachers were punctual as usual, getting their banners ready to show off. That crew made noise to some of the A's players who were standing around in left, shagging batting-practice balls. They shouted Ryan Buchter's name until he reacted with a wave, then Jake Diekman's. And cheered after each response.

Fans in the right-field bleachers hosted "Workaholics'" star Blake Anderson, who wanted to bang on the drums for the crowd after an in-game interview.

The fans were loud when pitcher after pitcher went in to pick up starter Sean Manaea. They were loud when each double play was easily made by the Rays. They even were loud when A's slugger Mark Canha struck out.

And it didn't go unnoticed.

"They were great. They were positive and stayed with us the whole time," Canha told reporters after the game. "I think they were kind of waiting for a rally, just like we were. They kept having faith in us, even down four in the last couple innings there, probably cheering their hardest."

Melvin, ever the professional, tipped his cap to the unique Oakland fans.

"It's disappointing," he said of the loss in front of such a robust crowd.

The team always wants to play in front of a big crowd, and it was beyond that Wednesday at the Coliseum.

"They were engaged from the first pitch of the game, they were engaged from the anthem on, and it felt like we just couldn't give them enough to really get into it," Melvin said. "But every inning they were up, every inning they were waving their towels and so forth, and it's disappointing we couldn't put on a better show for them."

[RELATED: Oakland native MC Hammer gushes over A's before wild-card game]

"They came out for us."

They certainly did.