10/04/06 7:28 PM ET
A's try to end clinching curse in Game 3
Oakland has lost its last eight opportunities to advance
By Jim Molony / MLB.com
The Oakland A's are facing another game where if they win, they clinch a postseason series. Normally, being in such a position is cause for celebration, but you can understand if these A's aren't partying about being up 2-0 on Minnesota in their best-of-five American League Division Series.
As any A's fan can tell you, getting that clinching win has been an October nightmare for this franchise in recent years.
The last eight times the A's played a Division Series game with a clinch on the line, they have lost every time. Twice in the last five years, Oakland led 2-0 in best-of-five series, but couldn't get that clinching win.
In 2001, the A's won two straight at New York, then lost three in a row to the Yankees, including two at home, to drop the ALDS.
In 2002, the A's were up 2-1 on the Twins, but wound up losing the next two games.
In 2003, the A's were up 2-0 on the Red Sox only to lose three straight.
The franchise's recent sad history in potential clinching games doesn't mean much to the current A's, most of whom weren't around for the previous losses.
"We've done a good job to win two games, but we haven't won anything yet," A's first baseman Nick Swisher said. "A lot of guys are hungry. We're not going to let up, because we all know what can happen."
This is a different A's team and a different opponent, and the A's do not intend to let Minnesota get up off the mat if they can help it.
"If you let up for a second, they can get right back in it," A's pitcher Barry Zito said. "We know we can't let up."
A's designated hitter Frank Thomas was with the Chicago White Sox during Oakland's recent postseason meltdowns. The Big Hurt doesn't believe history will repeat itself this time.
"The history isn't important -- taking care of today is important," Thomas said. "We're only up two games, and we have to be careful not to get caught up in that. That's when you get in trouble. You can't start thinking, 'Well, we only need one more.' You have to go after each game like it's the last game of the World Series. You can't ever let up.
"This team has a lot of character. I know we will keep after it and keep playing hard."
After Thursday's off-day, the two teams will meet on Friday at McAfee Coliseum. The Twins will have a chance to regroup while Oakland and right-hander Dan Haren will try to complete the sweep against Minnesota right-hander Brad Radke.
"We have missed some opportunities," Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. "I think we are 0-for- with runners in scoring position, but this is a good pitching staff, and we are having a hard time right now driving in runs. And when we do hit it hard, it's just not going our way. We have been backed into a corner, we know that. These guys won't quit. We are going to Oakland, we will have a day workout, and we will go back out there Friday and see what we can do."
|A win in the Game 3 on Friday would send the A's to the ALCS and snap their postseason record streak of nine straight losses in playoff clinching games:|
|Oct. 6, 2003||BOS 4, OAK 3|
|Oct. 5, 2003||BOS 5, OAK 4|
|Oct. 4, 2003||BOS 3, OAK 1|
|Oct. 6, 2002||MIN 5, OAK 4|
|Oct. 5, 2002||MIN 11, OAK 2|
|Oct. 15, 2001||NYY 5, OAK 3|
|Oct. 14, 2001||NYY 9, OAK 2|
|Oct. 13, 2001||NYY 1, OAK 0|
Oakland center fielder Mark Kotsay said the A's are not looking beyond Friday's game.
"Our focus is to go out and work out [Thursday], have a good workout and focus on Radke. He is a great pitcher, he has been in these situations before.
"The Oakland A's have been in this situation before, 2-0 in the series, so there is some history here. Obviously, it's a new group of guys. Other than maybe four or five guys with Zito and [Eric] Chavez leading, those guys who have been in this situation before. We have had our ups and downs, we have gone through a lot ... and we are not looking past Game 3, obviously."
Jim Molony is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.