Oakland Athletics: Ranking Billy Beane's Most Haunting Postseason Innings

Paul Francis Sullivan@@sullybaseballChief Writer IJuly 1, 2012

Oakland Athletics: Ranking Billy Beane's Most Haunting Postseason Innings

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    The movie Moneyball opens with Brad Pitt as Billy Beane frustrated over the Athletics' razor-thin loss to the Yankees in the 2001 Division Series.

    It ends with Beane's frustration at the end of the 2002 season, as he laments the fact that he never won a World Series with this crew of players.

    First of all, if you are an A's fans, that should not be a "spoiler."

    But throughout the wonderful run that the Athletics had between 2000 and 2006, they had several innings that did not break their way. In each of these innings, if a ball bounced one way, or a player got a hit or if Jeremy Giambi slid, there could have been a championship celebration in the East Bay (and a happier ending to the movie).

    These are the most heart-breaking innings for each of the five Athletics playoff teams of the 2000s.

2000 Division Series Game 5, Top 1st.

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    The A's won Game 4 in New York with an 11-1 thrashing of Roger Clemens to tie the series at two. The teams had to fly cross-country that night to play a winner-take-all fifth game in Oakland.

    The Yankees seemed to have crushed any hopes of the A's winning by smacking starter Gil Heredia and reliever Jeff Tam for six runs before the A's even came to bat.

    The A's rallied to make it 7-5 after four, but both teams were shutout the rest of the game and the Yankees advanced, leaving the A's to wonder what would have happened if they put a goose egg up on the board in the first.

2001 Division Series, Game 3, Bottom 7th

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    The 102-win A's were on the verge of sweeping the 95-win Yankees.

    Trailing 1-0 in the seventh with two outs and none on, Jeremy Giambi singled to right. Terrence Long then doubled to the right field corner and Shane Spencer's throw home was off target, seemingly tying the game.

    But we've all seen the clip of Derek Jeter coming out of nowhere and relaying the throw back to Jorge Posada and getting Giambi standing.

    Which question is more mysterious? Why was Jeter there or why didn't Giambi slide?

2002 Division Series, Game 5, Top 9th

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    The Athletics were the team to beat in the 2002 playoffs. They matched the Yankees' 103 wins for the best in baseball and had a 20-game winning streak in August to pull away from the Angels. T

    The A's took a 5-1 second-inning lead against the overmatched Twins in Game 1, but the Twins stunningly came back to win the contest. The A's responded by winning Games 2 and 3 easily.

    The Twins won Game 4, sending the series back to Oakland. When the Angels stunned the Yankees in four games, Oakland seemed to have a clear path to the World Series if they won Game 5.

    The Twins were winning 2-1 going into the ninth. A.J. Pierzynski hit a two-run homer and pre-Red Sox David Ortiz drove in two more with a double, making the game 5-1 Minnesota.

    Each run would come back to haunt the A's as Mark Ellis hit a bottom-of-the-ninth, three-run homer to make it a 5-4 loss instead of a 4-2 series win.

    For more about this team, rent Moneyball.

2003 Division Series, Game 5, Bottom 9th

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    This was an underrated series that both the Red Sox and the A's seemed hellbent to lose.

    Game 1 had the Red Sox blowing a lead with two outs in the ninth and losing in 12 innings on a bunt by the A's catcher. In Game 3, Eric Byrnes, forgot to touch home plate and Miguel Tejada interfered with Bill Mueller rounding third.

    If either of those runs had scored, the A's would have swept Boston.

    Instead, the Red Sox won on Trot Nixon's extra-inning homer. Keith Foulke coughed up an 8th-inning lead for the A's in Game 4 sending it to a wild and underrated Game 5.

    Pedro Martinez and Barry Zito dueled until a slumping Manny Ramirez hit a three-run homer to give the Red Sox a 4-1 lead.

    The A's cut it to 4-3 and in the ninth, and closer Scott Williamson walked the first two Oakland batters.

    Ramon Hernandez put down his second bunt of the series, this one putting the tying and winning runs in scoring position. Derek Lowe came in to try and close (a role he flourished in during the 2000 season but flopped in 2001).

    Shockingly, manager Ken Macha lifted veteran Jermaine Dye for a rookie Adam Melhuse, who struck out looking. Lowe walked the next batter loading the bases and faced Terrence Long. He too looked at a called third strike, ending one of the most underrated ninth innings in playoff history.

2006 ALCS, Game 1, Top 3rd

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    The A's finally got past the Division Series, and with Barry Zito on the mound at home, fresh off of his defeat of Johan Santana, the A's seemed ready to win their first pennant for Billy Beane.

    With two outs and nobody on in the third, Zito seemed ready to have another stellar outing...when Brandon Inge homered. Suddenly and shockingly, the wheels came off for Zito. After the homer, he let up a double then walked the bases full and let up another run.

    The A's couldn't score despite putting two men on in the bottom of the third and Pudge Rodriguez homered to lead off the fourth.

    Zito wouldn't make it out of the fourth inning, leaving with a 5-0 hole that the A's couldn't climb out of. The Tigers would sweep the series, ending on Magglio Ordonez's three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth in Game 4.

    But it was that third inning that changed the series.

    Had Zito made it through that inning, who knows? Perhaps he dominates Game 1 and Game 5. Maybe the A's win that allusive pennant for Billy Beane. All that is certain is the A's pennant hopes lived and died with Zito.

    And in Game 1 they died.