Oakland’s postseason roster boasts
seven former Boston players
Remember Game 4 of the ALDS? Of course
you don’t. But you can bet that Jed Lowrie does.
The rookie shortstop delivered a
series-ending, walk-off single off Scot Shields to propel the Boston
Red Sox into their second consecutive American League Championship
Series. Coco Crisp went 1-for-4 with a run scored in that game.
Unfortunately, Brandon Moss was not a
part of that run. The rookie first baseman was shipped to Pittsburgh
in the Manny Ramirez-Jason Bay trade. Also missing the party was Josh
Reddick, whose season ended with the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs while
the big league club chased its second consecutive World Series title.
Fast forward a half-decade, and Jon
Lester and Jonny Gomes helped lead the Red Sox to their third
championship in 10 years.
So what do all of these players –
and Nick Punto, a member of the Cardinals’ 2011 title team and a part
of the 2012 Red Sox prior to the blockbuster trade with the Dodgers –
have in common? They are all members of the 2014 Oakland Athletics, a
team that once appeared destined to follow in Boston’s footsteps as
world champs when they entered August with baseball’s best record.
Instead, a 2011 Red Sox-like collapse ensued, with the A’s finishing
16-30 and barely limping into the American League Wild Card game.
So can these seven players help right
the ship before it’s too late? For an Oakland franchise in the
postseason for the third straight year, a little playoff magic
couldn’t hurt. Their last two playoff journeys have ended abruptly at
the hands of the Detroit Tigers in a decisive Game 5.
Lester carries a glittering postseason
pedigree, including two World Series rings and a 2.11 ERA in 13
career playoff starts. GM Billy Beane mortgaged a big piece of the
team’s future in Yoenis Cespedes to rent Lester for the remainder of
2014, and the 30-year-old lefty could hold the keys to the Athletics
finally taking that next step as their Wild Card game hopes hinge on
another stellar effort.
Gomes was a spark-plug and playoff
hero for last year’s Sox, and for what it’s worth, Moss, who is
second on the Athletics with 25 homers, earned a ring in 2007 after a
brief cup of coffee in Boston. There is plenty of postseason
experience to go around, and much of that experience was gained in
Boston, where it seems like the playoff magic never runs out.
For the A’s, there hasn’t been any
playoff magic since 2006 when they last won a postseason series (the
ALDS against Punto’s Minnesota Twins). What ensued was an ALCS
wipe-out by – who else? – the Tigers. There are demons to be
exorcised, and for most of the season, it seemed like doing so would
be a mere formality for Oakland.
But the late-season almost-collapse
seemed to shake the A’s to their core, even as they survived in Game
162 by fending off the last-place Texas Rangers. By all conventional
wisdom, the A’s should be annihilated by the upstart, feel-good
Kansas City Royals on Tuesday. But conventional wisdom hasn’t
necessarily deterred past champions.
The ’07 Red Sox saw a seven-game AL
East lead dwindle down to two in a matter of three weeks before
finally wrapping up the division on the season’s final weekend. What
ensued was a dominant, 11-3 postseason, capped by Lester’s winning
start in the clinching Game 4 of the World Series.
Two years prior, the 2005 White Sox
coasted through July, building a 15-game division lead in the AL
Central. By September 24, that lead was down to 1.5 games. But those
Sox flipped the switch back on in October, matching the 1999 Yankees
for the league’s best-ever Wild Card-era playoff run by going 11-1.
Some will argue that the Lester trade
disrupted team chemistry and, more prominently, robbed the team of
its biggest bat. But what the A’s now have as they try and keep the
collapse from plateauing is a formidable rotation, with Lester at the
top and another major trade acquisition, Jeff Samardzija, slotting at
No. 2. Sonny Gray, last year’s ALDS Game 5 starter, is a dangerous
No. 3 starter.
If there are, in fact, any good vibes
from Boston left to go around, the A’s would be the biggest