This is No. 1 on Golden Gate Sports’ list of the Top 10 Bay Area Sports Stories of 2012. For a quick reminder, please read No. 2.
On July 13th, the A’s trailed the Texas Rangers by nine games in the American League West with the Los Angeles Angels to in front of them as well. Then, well, the magic started
An 19-5 record in July basically put them on the map. During that stretch, they swept the mighty Yankees, a rare four-game sweep in front of their home fans. In all four games, the A’s won by just one run, and collected two walk-off wins in the process. Speaking of sweeps, they also swept the Red Sox and Twins earlier that month, as the walk-off hit slowly became their “thing” topped with a pie to the face during the celebration.
The A’s second half rally was nothing short of a shock. The first half seemed like the typical A’s that had been struggling to put a competitive team on the field for years. Bob Melvin’s club lacked an offensive jolt, and an inexperienced pitching staff failed to provide any inconsistency. Plus, with the Rangers and Angels both being in the upper echelon in the American League, Oakland seemingly had no chance of catching, or even competing with either club.
Once the A’s found some source of positivity, though, they took that feeling and ran with it. There was a 10-1 start off the All-Star break. Melvin, who would eventually go on the be named AL Manager of the Year, had his club believing. A band of veterans and mostly rookies, were beginning to turn the corner.
Oakland’s inexperienced, yet confident pitching staff posted a 2.74 ERA in their 10-1 start to the second half while walking just 18 batters in 102 innings pitched. Meanwhile, Josh Reddick and Yoenis Cespedes stepped up as Oakland’s prime offensive producers, along with Brandon Moss, who came out of nowhere to hit an astounding 21 home runs in just 265 at-bats. Once a glaring whole at first base, no more with Moss hitting home runs at a historical clip.
The A’s hot start continued, and continued, until pundits finally began to give in to what was happening in Oakland. On August 1st, a once nine game deficit evaporated into just a 4.5 game deficit that was decreasing by the day.
August wasn’t quite as impressive as July, but an 18-10 record isn’t a number to scoff at. As Oakland’s pitching dove slightly, their offense picked up the slack, compiling 39 home runs in August with a .322 OBP.
Still, the A’s ultimately made up just a half game over the course of the month, as the Rangers caught a hot streak to maintain their dwindling lead. But the Angels, on the other hand, completely fell off a cliff, losing 4.5 games in the division, and trailed by 8.5 games on August 31st. The AL West was becoming just a two team race.
But the “real” magic didn’t start until September 28th, to be exact.
The A’s entered the 28th trailing the Rangers three games with six games left in the 2012 season. Fortunately, their season would end with a three-game set against the first place Rangers.
So, they could control their destiny with a little help from their division foes (Angels). And they did, as the Rangers lost two of three against Los Angeles, while the A’s swept the Mariners to set up a huge series.
The A’s clinched a playoff spot in Game 1 of the series, which was a massive accomplishment itself, but the ultimate goal was a division crown to avoid a one game playoff. To do so, they would need to win the final two games of the series. And again, they did just that.
Capped off by a slew of mental and physical errors by the Rangers, the A’s won 12-5 on the final day of the season to stand alone atop the AL West.
Despite a defeat against the Tigers in the ALDS, the A’s had one magical ride. From Josh Reddick hitting 32 home runs to Jarrod Parker recording a 2.63 ERA in September/October, and of course the 15 walk-off wins, the A’s defined what a team is truly about. They didn’t own the highest payroll, actually they were far from it, but rookies transformed into seasoned veterans, and they overcame a deficit that seemed impossible to overcome.