2012 A's sleep the big sleep
In the end, the series came down not so much to the 2-3 vs. 2-2-1 format as the fact that your ace pitcher gets to throw twice in five games, and the Tigers have the best ace pitcher on the planet. The A's simply had to hope that Verlander would be off his game, at least to the degree that he was in Game One (when he gave up just one run, but walked four in seven innings and threw a lot of pitches along the way). Even great pitchers have bad games, so an actual best-case scenario against Verlander would be a total blow-up. A realistic best-case, though, is mediocrity that knocks him out after six or seven frames with the contest still close and a chance for the A's to win against the bullpen.
Verlander decided not to cooperate, and when Ryan Cook did the most Ryan Cook things possible and Coco Crisp broke the wrong way on yet another fly ball and Stephen Drew let a double-play grounder (albeit a hard-hit one-hopper a bit to his right) past him, suddenly the game was not close anymore, and the A's were left needing an actual collapse from Verlander. A six-run collapse. Which just was not going to happen.
I had to take my wife to the airport tonight, so I didn't get to see the first half of the game. I came in when the score was still 2-0 and, while nervous, had some hope the A's could pull things out as long as Verlander wasn't planning on sticking around. When I saw his pitch count, though, along with the A's hit total, my stomach sank. Anything is possible, especially with the grip-and-rip A's -- just one runner on and a guy bumping into a rare hanging changeup from the Tigers' big boss on the mound was all it would take to tie things up.
But not this time.
The worst part is that sometimes it feels like "not ever." The A's franchise index on Baseball Reference is a compendium of heartbreak. Four straight 3-2 Division Series losses is impressive in a sick way, and while 2012 doesn't follow directly on 2003, the A's have now lost five Game Fives in a row. Karma or fate or Flying Spaghetti Monster or Baseba'al, I guess, taking its payment for back-to-back Game Seven wins in '72 and '73, each of which followed a Game Five win in the ALCS (the LCS was only five games back then)?
If so, that's exceedingly cruel. It was forty years ago. I was not born. Many of you were not, either. Some of you were but were too young to remember it.
But some of you were lucky enough to experience the joy of those seasons as children or young adults. Tonight, today, if you can figure out a way to transfer forward through the years and across space a tiny piece of that joy, to help us remember that sometimes the A's win the big game when everyone's watching, that would be great.
This isn't a season wrap-up by any means, and I'm of course feeling a lot more negative and depressed and lonely and frustrated on this night after this loss than I will a few weeks from now, when the game isn't so fresh, when the bad loss hasn't so closely followed the euphoria of a walk-off win. At that point, I think I'll be able to get back to a proper appreciation of just what an absurdly fun run the A's made this year to (lest we forget, as I'm finding myself prone to doing) win the West over the Rangers and Angels.
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