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Again, A's fall short in ALDS
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Division Series
10/06/2002 9:36 pm ET 
Again, A's fall short in ALDS
They made it interesting with a ninth-inning rally
By Mychael Urban /

Miguel Tejada reacts after striking out in the eighth inning of Game 5's loss. (Mark J. Terrill/AP)
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Three Game 5's. Three crushing losses. Three long offseasons.

The A's on Sunday became the first team in the history of Major League Baseball to lose the deciding game of a postseason series -- be it Game 5 or Game 7 -- three years in a row.

In Oakland's case it was Game 5 of an American League Division Series all three times, including the devastation that was the day's 5-4 loss to the visiting Twins, and they'd just as soon not try to compare them.

"I don't even want to think about that," manager Art Howe said. "It hurts. Hurt is hurt."

Everywhere you looked in the Oakland clubhouse after the game, eyes were ringed red. Randy Velarde, who broke into the big leagues in 1987, was tearfully making it official that he had played his last game. Barry Zito's whole face was red when he finally emerged from a lengthy postgame soul search in the dugout.

Some players, most notably Billy Koch, who was hit hard in Game 5, and series stalwart Eric Chavez, wouldn't talk at all.

We should've known

With Sunday's Game 5 loss to the Twins, the Oakland A's have now lost six straight ALDS clinchers, including four at home, and became the first team in Major League history to lose a deciding Game 5 or Game 7 three years in a row. Mark Mulder, the loser in last year's ALDS Game 5, was the loser again this year. Perhaps we should have seen this coming.
2000 ALDS vs. NY,
series tied 2-2

Game 5 (at Oak): NY 7, A's 5
2001 ALDS vs. NY,
A's up 2-0

Game 3 (at Oak): NY 1, A's 0
Game 4 (at Oak): NY 9, A's 2
Game 5 (at NY): NY 5, A's 3
2002 ALDS vs. Twins,
A's up 2-1

Game 4 (at Minn): Twins 11, A's 2
Game 5 (at Oak.): Twins 5, A's 4
With a win in Game 5 of the ALDS in Oakland on Sunday, the Twins have now won six consecutive games when facing elimination. The previous five all had been played at the Metrodome, so today we learned they could take their show on the road.
1987 World Series vs. Cards,
Twins down 3-2
Game 6 (in Minn.): Twins 11, Cards 5
Game 7 (in Minn.): Twins 4, Cards 2
1991 World Series vs. Braves,
Twins down 3-2

Game 6 (in Minn.): Twins 4, Braves 3 (11)
Game 7 (in Minn.): Twins 1, Braves 0
2002 ALDS vs. A's,
Twins down 2-1

Game 4 (at Minn.): Twins 11, A's 2
Game 5 (at Oak.): Twins 5, A's 4

"I've got nothing to say," said Chavez, who hit .381 in the series, as he walked out the clubhouse door.

Koch, who gave up three runs in the ninth inning, never showed up at his locker.

All because Mark Mulder's gutsy seven-inning stint on three days rest and Mark Ellis' dramatic three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth weren't enough. Just as the Game 4 win at Yankee Stadium wasn't enough in the 2000 ALDS. And just as a two-games-to-none lead in last year's ALDS wasn't enough.

The sting of coming up short is familiar to the core of A's who have been through all three disappointments, but that, Mulder said, only makes it harder to take.

"Any time you get to this point and don't get it done, it's tough," he offered. "It's not the way we wanted it to end, and we expect more of ourselves. It's just a really empty feeling right now."

Ellis, a rookie, was feeling it for the first time.

"It's terrible," he said. "I've had some tough moments in baseball, but this is the worst. You play your whole life to get to this, and when it doesn't work out the way you want it to work out, it's pretty devastating."

First baseman Scott Hatteberg played for 10 years in the Boston Red Sox organization, so he knows a little something about late-season disappointment. But like Ellis, he's a first-time member of the Oakland Implosion Club, so it wasn't surprising to hear him expressing disappointment for his teammates more than for himself.

Hatteberg knew that the A's had lost in the ALDS three years in a row. But when he found out that it came in Game 5 all three times, his eyes opened wide before he exhaled deeply.

"Wow. That's brutal," he said. "To work so hard all season and have it come down to one game? That's a lot of emotion. That's a lot of drama. That's a lot of things going on in your head.

"I'm frustrated right now. Very frustrated. But the guys who have been here for all three must be even more crushed. And the worst part is that you've got four months to think about it."

Back to

Howe tried to put a positive spin on the day's events, basically saying it's better to be there and lose than to not play at all. He expressed pride, he expressed confidence, and he even found a reason or two to smile.

But he wasn't kidding anyone. He knows the drill all too well. Like the rest of the team, he'll head home, he'll hurt, and he'll probably replay Oakland's losses in Games 1, 4 and 5 over and over in his head.

"Don't remind me," he said. "I am not looking forward to the offseason thinking about it. ... And trust me, we'll all be thinking about this for a long time."

Mychael Urban is a reporter for and can be reached at This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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