A's will be judged by response to lifeless loss to Sox originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
Well, at least that wasn’t a one-game playoff. That’s the only positive to be taken from the A's 4-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday, where Oakland couldn’t hit a lick and gave up four runs on three mighty swings.
It was an unmitigated playoff disaster that has become all-too-familiar in the East Bay, with super-talented A’s teams falling short in the fall. It would’ve ended the season in recent years, with the A’s stuck in second behind Houston and failing to survive in a one-game, winner-take-all wild-card round.
This year is different, and not just because everybody starts with a three-game series in expanded playoffs following a season shortened by the pandemic. The A’s earned their margin for error in any situation with an AL West title, but it has evaporated in a Thanos snap.
They’re right back in a do-or-die situation, having to beat Chicago twice to survive and advance. That’s an uncomfortable place for any team, especially an A’s team that has won just one of their last 13 playoff series. They have lost nine straight true elimination games for both teams, including three straight in the wild-card round.
Regular seasons are a hoot in these parts, with a team that has been awesome most of this decade. Postseasons are the hat-wringing, which is why fans should be pardoned for uttering an ultra-pessimistic phrase.
Here we go again.
That’s why every decision is questioned and criticized. That includes throwing phenom Jesús Luzardo in the opener against a White Sox team that absolutely mashes lefties. He made two mistakes. Both left the yard. Naturally, Bob Melvin gets slammed for it even though he shouldn’t. Luzardo is a superstar in the making. You go with your best guy. The A’s did that.
This is what happens when you try in vain to defy a bad reputation. Panic, from the outside at least, starts at the first sign of trouble. The A’s insist all that gets tuned out. They’d better be right.
“I have no doubts about this team,” Luzardo said. “I know there’s a lot of pessimism going around from a lot of people, but not from this clubhouse. We don’t let that in. Whatever is said negatively about our team, we don’t let that get in our head.”
These A’s don’t want to hear any of that. They don’t want or need mistakes of the past brought to the present. That doesn’t help win the next game, and that one matters most.
This team won’t be judged on what happened on Tuesday. They’ll be judged by their response to it. Rollover and that will be this group’s lasting image. If they get up, wipe blood from their mouths and play to their immense potential, we’ll remember 2020 differently no matter how deep into the playoffs they go.
We all get knocked down. Not everybody gets back up.
Chris Bassitt will have to stay hot when starting Game 2. The offense will have to thrive with immense pressure on every at-bat. There’s ample talent to get those jobs done, but Matt Chapman’s certainly missed in a situation like this. The A’s would be far better with him breathing fire into Wednesday’s proceedings.
He isn’t available for this postseason. Hip surgery saw to that. There’s plenty of leadership and competitive drive on the active roster, and those players must step up and lead the way in another do-or-die affair. The A’s lost their margin for error in a flash. We’ll see what they’re made of while fighting for survival in a postseason they can win by responding well after Tuesday’s debacle.
“This game is already in the past,” reliever J.B. Wendelken said. “We’re moving to the next step. We’re going to come in with a little bit of anger tomorrow and we’ll be able to pull it off and show you all how it’s done.”