Athletics 11, Angels 10, 10 innings
Fortunately, he knows what to expect.
Thomas homered and drove in four runs, Jeremy Brown scored the go-ahead run on pitcher Brendan Donnelly’s throwing error in the 10th inning, and the A’s beat the Los Angeles Angels 11-10 Sunday to avoid being swept in a season-ending four-game series.
The A’s, who played the finale like an exhibition game, open their best-of-five division series Tuesday at the Metrodome against the Twins, who won the AL Central Division championship on the season’s final day.
The Twins went 6-4 against Oakland this season, including 5-1 at the Metrodome, and beat the A’s in a division series four years ago before losing to the Angels in the AL championship series.
“We match up well—great pitching, great defense. They’re grinders, we’re grinders,” Thomas said. “I tell people, they have the ultimate homefield advantage. When you get 50,000 people in there, it’s very noisy.”
Thomas should know, having played the first 16 years of his career with the Chicago White Sox—who also play in the AL Central.
The Twins, 25-33 at one stage of the season, needed to beat the White Sox and have Detroit lose to Kansas City in the finale to win the division and nudge the Tigers to wild-card status and a playoff date with the Yankees.
Even when the Tigers led the Royals 6-0 after three innings Sunday, Oakland manager Ken Macha issued a word of caution while speaking before the A’s-Angels game.
“We’ve seen some other leads dwindle also—some of ours included,” he said with a smile.
The Royals beat the Tigers 10-8 in 12 innings and the Twins topped the White Sox 5-1.
The A’s (93-69), who clinched the AL West championship last Tuesday, enter the postseason having lost six of their last nine games.
They know that doesn’t mean a thing now.
“Our team feels pretty good about themselves,” Macha said. “They should, having won a bunch of games and the division.”
The Angels (89-73) won seven of their final nine.
Brown started the winning rally by hitting a two-out double off Chris Bootcheck (0-1). Donnelly relieved and walked D’Angelo Jimenez before Jay Payton hit a liner that hit Donnelly in the stomach. The ball bounced toward the third base line before Donnelly picked it up and made a wild throw to first.
The first five batters in the Oakland lineup were all on the bench by the sixth inning. Thomas hit a three-run homer and a sacrifice fly in his only plate appearances; Mark Kotsay had two hits and a walk, drove in a run and scored three times; and Milton Bradley had two hits and an RBI with a run scored.
Tim Salmon was hitless in four at-bats with a walk and a run scored in the final game of his 15-year career—all with the Angels.
The 38-year-old outfielder-designated hitter is retiring with franchise-record totals of 299 homers and 986 runs scored along with 1,674 hits and 1,016 RBIs. He received a standing ovation from the crowd of 44,107 after popping up in the eighth in his last at-bat.
“About the only word I can think of is finality. It’s over,” Salmon said. “It just didn’t seem like that day would come, but it’s starting to sink in now. This whole weekend’s been kind of like a dream, in a sense. It’s been surreal. It was pretty spectacular. That’s why it’s special to play your whole career in one organization.”
Oakland’s Rich Harden was ineffective in his third start since coming off the disabled list, issuing a season-high six walks and allowing three hits and six runs in 3 2-3 innings. Harden, a possibility to start Game 3 of the division series, threw 91 pitches—only 44 for strikes.
Los Angeles’ Dustin Moseley, making his second big league start, gave up 10 hits and seven runs in four innings.
The first three games in the Oakland-Minnesota division series are day games. The A’s were an AL-best 40-21 in day games and the Twins were 27-20. “We’re used to playing during the day—we have the second-most day games in baseball,” Macha said. “I don’t think it’s going to matter.” … The Angels’ 54-29 record since July 1 was the best in the majors. … Thomas has hit 235 of his 487 homers as a designated hitter, tying former White Sox teammate Harold Baines for second on baseball’s career list. Seattle’s Edgar Martinez hit 243 homers as a DH. … The Angels finished the season having committed an AL-high 124 errors and 80 unearned runs—second-most in the majors to Cleveland. … Salmon’s wife, Marci, threw out the ceremonial first pitch, with Salmon serving as the catcher.