Goodnight, Jeremy Giambi. Goodbye, Eric Byrnes and Miguel Tejada. Saynora Tim Hudson’ sore oblique. Hello, Marco Scutaro, Milton Bradley, Justin Duchscherer and Eric Chavez.
The A’s exorcized a whole host of demons on Friday afternoon under the clouds at the Oakland Coliseum. It took a little bit of homerun power, a little bit of great relief and good starting pitching and a whole lot of Marco Scutaro.
The Oakland A’s have won four World Series titles since arriving in Oakland in 1968, so no one can call the franchise cursed (especially in North Chicago, Detroit, San Francisco and Cleveland). However, after losing nine straight post-season series clinching games, one could have termed the A’s franchise as being snakebit.
By beating the Twins on Friday, the A’s are no longer snakebit. They are now advancing in the post-season for the first time since 1990, when Oakland swept the Boston Red Sox in the ALCS to move on to the World Series.
The A’s now find themselves back in the ALCS for the first time since 1992, when the A’s lost to the Toronto Blue Jays in six games. They’ll have to wait through the weekend to find out who they will be playing in the ALCS.
On Friday, the A’s took an early lead in the second inning when franchise player Eric Chavez collected his first hit of post-season in emphatic fashion, a long homerun to right off of Twins starter Brad Radke. The A’s added on another run later in the inning, when Marco Scutaro collected his third run-scoring double in three games, scoring Jay Payton with two-outs from first.
The A’s then tacked on two more runs in the bottom of the third when Milton Bradley launched a two-run homer to straightaway centerfield, also his first hit of the series. Minnesota answered with a run in the bottom of the inning, and the score stayed 4-1 until the top of the sixth, when the Twins mounted their most promising rally of the game.
Justin Morneau singled with one-out and then Torii Hunter doubled to put runners at second and third. Rondell White stepped to the plate and singled on a groundball to right. Morneau walked home to make the score 4-2. Hunter tried to follow Morneau to the plate, but Bradley launched a perfect throw from right and Hunter was called out at the plate on a very close play.
The A’s were quiet in the bottom of the sixth, but, after a 1-2-3 inning by A’s super-reliever Justin Duchscherer, the A’s mounted a most unusual rally that all but ended the game. Frank Thomas walked with two-outs and Eric Chavez followed with another walk. Jay Payton then grounded a first pitch to first, but it was fumbled by Morneau and the bases were loaded with two-outs. Nick Swisher came to the plate and he battled Minnesota reliever Jesse Crain and eventually drew a run-scoring walk to make the score 5-2. Scutaro then came to the plate and did what he does best, lining a two-out run-scoring double, his fourth of the series. This double scored three runs and the A’s took a commanding 8-2 lead.
Closer Huston Street came on in the ninth with the A’s leading 8-3 and sandwiched a double-play in between two singles. With Jason Bartlett at first, Street retired Luis Castillo on a weak flyball to left and the celebration was on.
The A’s will meet the winner of the Yankees-Tigers series in the American League Championship Series early next week.