The Oakland Athletics -- who were not expected contend at all this year, let alone win the AL West -- finally hit a wall they could not break through Thursday night. Their countless comeback victories and week-long winning streaks got them all the way to Game 5 of the ALDS, but they could not figure out Justin Verlander.
Verlander pitched his second game of the five-game series Thursday night, and managed to keep the Athletics' bats even quieter than they were in Game 1. The Tigers' ace right-hander pitched a shutout at Oakland Coliseum, quieting the hometown crowd by striking out 11 and putting an end to the A's magical season.
For A's blogger cuppingmaster at Athletics Nation, the loss was disappointing but it was also a good chance to put the team's unexpected season in perspective:
[Verlander]'s the planet's best pitcher, and he proved it tonight. A Herculean 122 pitch effort with 11 K's has propelled the Detroit Tigers into the ALCS...
Indeed, I don't want to focus on the negatives of this game. Jarrod Parker proved down the stretch that he is a money pitcher. There were 15 walkoff victories, none bigger than last night's. There was a 4-game home sweep of the Yankees, something that no Oakland A's team had ever acomplished. Despite the minute chances given to them at the beginning of the season, the A's will hang a 2012 AL West Banner at the Coliseum next year, and knocked off the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels to do it. Yoenis Cespedes proved to be the signing of the offseason, and is a legitimate five-tool player. Sean Doolittle emerged as one of the game's premier setup men, and one of the game's best stories, period.
Seriously, so many stories made this season great. And this was a great series, too.
Oakland ended their 2012 season with an AL West title and a thrilling Division Series, two things no one thought were possible for the club at the beginning of the year. The way this year panned out, it seems foolish to try to predict what is in store for Oakland in 2013.