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12:46AM

For A’s, the crowd (54,005) was great, the game less so

OAKLAND—There they were, the other team, the Tampa Bay Rays, the cheapest team in baseball, the most stunning team in baseball.,  There they were celebrating, leaping around, embracing, dancing on the A’s field.

  First they stole the Athletics’ style, the home run ball. Then Wednesday night they stole the American League Wild Card game, beating Oakland, 5-1.

  It’s the same old story for the A’s, if with a new twist. Another post-season elimination game in which they were eliminated, this time on their own field, and in front of a crowd that indicated Oakland can draw even if it can’t win.

   Such an impressive turnout, 54,005, fans virtually filling up that huge expanse above centerfield at the Coliseum known as Mount Davis because it was erected to please the late owner of the NFL Raiders

  Such a depressing result, again. The A’s are 0-9 now in elimination games, The A’s are 0-3 now in wild card games.

   . “You've got to give them some credit,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said of the Rays. ‘It's kind of our game; they kind of beat us with our game. We're normally a home run-hitting team, and we couldn't do much, and they hit the ball out of our ballpark, which can be tough to do.”

  It was tough for the A’s. In fact, it was impossible Wednesday night.

  For the Rays, whose salary total is $60 million, the smallest in the majors, it seemed easy.

  Yandy Diaz, who coming off an injury was a bit of a surprise starter, hit the fifth pitch of the game into the right field bleachers.

  Avisail Garcia then hit one in the second with a runner on. Then Diaz hit another in the third. All off Sean Manaea, who Melvin chose to pitch over Mike Fiers.  Wham, wham, wham.

   “He only gave up four hits” sighed Melvin, “and three of them were home runs” 

   He had that right. And this wild-card thing wrong.

   Melvin said that during the regular season a team loses a game and comes back the next day or two days later and plays another. But that’s what makes the post-season so awful and so wonderful.

  You win, you advance. You lose, you start thinking about spring training. Or what you might have done in the weeks previously.  “We’ve got to win more games so we’re not in the wild card,” he said.

  That’s not a bad idea.

      Diaz is a 28-year-old who in 2013 on his third try managed to defect from Cuba. Last winter Diaz was acquired by the Rays from Cleveland, because according to Tampa manager. Kevin Cash, Diaz “hits the ball hard.”

  Out two months with a bad foot, Diaz just returned the middle of September, unfortunately for the A’s.

  While he was pounding away—Diaz also had a single –Tampa pitcher Charlie Morton was surviving a 32-pitch, bases loaded first inning without giving up a run.

    You sensed it was not going to a great evening for the A’s. Was it because they wore their pea-green uniform with “Oakland” across the front rather than their whites with the word “Athletics”?

    A few years ago, when the A’s kept losing in the first round of the playoffs (now they’d love even to get that far) general manager Billy Beane said the post-season was a crapshoot. He meant that one pitcher, one game, one screwball single can undo what was accomplished over the long, six-month season.

  Yet, as Melvin reminded, it you’re good enough you don’t end up in the wild card, where your season, as the A’s season, falls victim to someone like Yandy Diaz.

  “There's no responding in a game like this,” Melvin said of the defeat. “So it could be a difficult game. It's a little out of the norm for baseball. It is what it is. Both teams battled to get to this point and knew it would be one and out. They just played better than we did.” 

   That they did.

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