Oakland A's: 10 Highlights of a Magical 2012 Season for the A's

Nick HouserCorrespondent IINovember 14, 2012

Oakland A's: 10 Highlights of a Magical 2012 Season for the A's

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    It's November and baseball has been done for more than two weeks, but it's never too early to recount the magic the Oakland A's had in 2012.

    From start to finish, this team continued to leave many flabbergasted.

    From the no-name talent to a league-leading home run total in the second half, no one outside of Athletics fans thought a postseason berth and AL West crown were possible.

    Ultimately it came to an end in Game 5 of the ALDS. But along the way, there was plenty of fun, plenty of memories and excitement, copious jaw-dropping, unbelievable moments and an abundance of magic that could only be found in a movie.

    Here's one last look back at the grandeur that was the 2012 Oakland A's season.

March 29, 2012: A's Win Their First Game and More

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    After dropping the first game of the season to the Seattle Mariners in Japan, the Oakland Athletics took the second of three with a 4-1 victory.

    The game was their first of 94 wins in 2012.

    More importantly, however, it was the exciting fashion in which the A's won it.

    With one runner on and down 1-0 in the bottom of the seventh, newly acquired Cuban outfielder—who came with plenty of question marks regarding his legitimacy—gave the A's the lead with an absolute missile of a home run to deep left-center field. Not to be outdone, Josh Reddick then hit a solo shot right after.

    That should have been a sign of things to come.

    In yet even more foreshadowing, DH Jonny Gomes then hit a solo shot in the eighth. Cespedes, Reddick and Gomes each hit home runs for the only RBI of the game.

    Who would have thought?

    The win would move Oakland into a tie for first place in the AL West—a lead they would lose and not gain back again for another 160 games.

The Entire Month of July

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    The month of July started with a five-game win streak that included a sweep of the Boston Red Sox. This was then followed by the All-Star Game in which rookie reliever Ryan Cook earned the honors of representing Oakland.

    The month progressed and so did the wins.

    In perhaps a moment deserving of its own slide, the Athletics swept the New York Yankees in four games. All four games finished with the A's on top by just one run each time. In fact, on July 20, tied 2-2, Brandon Moss delivered a walk-off win. The next day Brandon Inge delivered the dagger with a home run in the bottom of the eighth to give the A's the lead.

    Then there was the fourth game.

    Down 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth, Seth Smith tied the game with a blast to center field, sending the game into extras. Later in the 12th, Coco Crisp ended the game with an RBI.

    The A's finished July with a 19-5 record, putting themselves nine games over .500 and just 3.5 back of the AL West leader.

August 3: Straily Debuts, A's Win by Walk-off

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    The Oakland Athletics led the majors with 14 walk-off wins in 2012. All of them were special, so it's hard to pick just one as a magical moment.

    You could say it was Derek Norris' first career home run, a shot that doubled as the game-ender against the San Francisco Giants.

    You could also point to any of the July walk-offs. They seemed to happen nearly every other day, and best of all, it came from a new guy each time: Coco Crisp on on July 3, Chris Carter on July 6, Josh Reddick on July 8, Brandon Hicks on July 18, Brandon Moss on July 20.

    There were so many, it's hard to keep track of them all. (This link will help.)

    However, to pick one and one only, look no further than Aug. 3 as one of the most magical walk-offs in 2012. The game was a beauty both offensively and defensively.

    Dan Straily, a 23-year-old prospect, received the call-up and the start in a game against the Toronto Blue Jays. In his debut, he allowed just one run in six innings while striking out five. He left the game with a 1.50 ERA.

    The A's blew a save in the top of the ninth to head to extras.

    But while Straily didn't earn his first win that day, the team still managed to pull together and earn a victory. After a Jemile Weeks triple, Crisp hit a ball deep enough to score the runner.

    A fine pitching performance and a walk-off—that sums up Oakland's 2012 nicely.

Aug. 24-Sept. 2: 9-Game Win Streak

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    Between May 22 and June 1, the A's lost nine games in a row. The streak put them in third place in the AL West and nine games back on the leader. But as far as nine-game streaks are considered, it was the winning one that began in late August that fans should remember most.

    As Aug. 23 finished, Oakland found themselves six games behind the Texas Rangers. But nine games later, they were just three back.

    The wins came against the Tampa Bay Rays, the Cleveland Indians and the Boston Red Sox. Not only that, they came in convincing fashion. Over that stretch, the A's outscored opponents 72-22. That included two consecutive shutouts.

    Up until this point, the team still had too many disbelievers to count.

    You can make the argument that it was this winning streak that truly began turning heads outside the Bay Area. It was in this stretch that made the postseason a real possibility rather than an awesome fantasy.

Sept. 12: A.J. Griffin Goes 6-0

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    The story of A.J. Griffin is one of the unique and incredible individual stories that fall under the umbrella of the 2012 season. Before this season, Griffin never pitched above Single-A. In fact, he had to sell shoes for Nike in the offseason just to stay afloat.

    It's a good thing he quit his day job (shoe-selling, that is).

    On Sept. 12, Griffin earned his sixth victory, making him a perfect 6-0 to start his Major League career. With that win, he became just the second pitcher in A's history to win his first six starts in his rookie season.

    The win—which put them 22 games over .500—also clinched a winning season, the first for Oakland since 2006.

Sept. 28: Brandon McCarthy Returns to the Dugout

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    Sometimes not every magical moment of a baseball season is directly correlated to on-the-field play.

    No, this feel-good, magical happening came when Brandon McCarthy—the A's pitcher who was struck in the head by a hit ball and required surgery for brain hemorrhaging—officially returned to the dugout.

    He could have stayed away from the game. He could have watched from the comfort of his own home.

    Instead, he came to support his teammates.

    It was one of those moments in baseball where a fan can take a step back and realize it's just a game. Yet this silly game serves as inspiration to many and builds an untouchable bond among men.

    Overall, it was great to see McCarthy in good health.

Oct. 1: The A's Clinch a Postseason Berth

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    Three games back and in second place behind the AL West-leading Texas Rangers, the Oakland A's had two more series to play. The Los Angeles Angels were hot on their tails, and there was no letting up.

    First they swept the Seattle Mariners.

    Not only were they just two games back now, the last series was against those Rangers. But there was still the matter of the Angels. One win for Texas and they clinch the division. Every Oakland loss and LA win would only make things more scary.

    Luckily, there were no more Oakland losses.

    Once the A's defeated the Rangers in the first of three games, they locked up a spot in the postseason, their first since 2006. It didn't matter if they lost the next two, the A's were headed to playoffs.

Oct. 3: A's Win the West

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    After clinching at least a wild-card spot, the A's had two games left in the season. It would take two more wins (ultimately a sweep) over the Texas Rangers to pull off one of the craziest feats in baseball.

    And they did it.

    After being back 13 games on June 30, Oakland stormed back to slowly inch closer and closer to the top of the AL West. On the 162nd game of the season, they pulled off the miracle.

    Not once during the season did the A's hold first place in the standings on their own.

    The game began in hot fashion, with Brandon Moss driving in Stephen Drew. Things went sour quickly as Texas dropped five in the top of the third.

    Clearly, that didn't matter.

    The A's decided to provide a little more oomph, as if what they had done throughout the season to that point wasn't enough already, and they scored six to retake the lead. Five more runs sealed the deal and crowned Oakland winners of the division.

Oct. 9-10: The A's Storm Back

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    So the Oakland A's make the playoffs for the first time in six seasons, and what do they do? They immediately drop the first two games and find themselves in a 0-2 hole.

    The true fans weren't worried.

    In Game 3, Oakland won 2-0. But it was Game 4 that provided the magic—or the heart-stopping drama that had many on the verge of passing out.

    The A's were down 3-1 in the bottom of the ninth. It appeared the season could come to an end very soon, only one half-inning left to do something, anything.

    Josh Reddick was at the plate, and he was slumping badly.

    Game 4 of the ALDS is as good of a time as any to break out of slumps, and Reddick temporarily did just that with a single to right. Back-to-back doubles by Josh Donaldson and Seth Smith tied the game.

    Two outs later and Smith still on second, Coco Crisp ended the game in walk-off fashion (shocker) to force a Game 5.

Nov. 14: Bob Melvin Earns Manager of the Year Award

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    Announced on MLB.com's official Twitter page, Oakland A's manager Bob Melvin earned the honor of American League Manager of the Year.

    Melvin took a team expected to fall lower than .500 to a 94-68 record. Oakland—thought to finish third or fourth in the AL West—won the division and took the AL champion Detroit Tigers to the brink.

    But more than the winning record, Melvin exemplified the "player's manager."

    During the season, he faced tons of adversity. First there was an issue with closing duties, which could have potentially damaged Grant Balfour's psyche. Then there was the unexpected and underwhelming play of Jemile Weeks that ultimately lost the second baseman his job.

    Melvin had to deal with Cliff Pennington shifting to second base after the team acquired Stephen Drew.

    Then there were injuries.

    Brandon McCarthy was lost for the season. After returning in August, Brett Anderson landed on the DL once more. Yoenis Cespedes and Coco Crisp spent quite a bit of time injured. Brandon Inge was lost for the season. Not to mention that the team started out of the gate with a Scott Sizemore injury in spring training.

    Bartolo Colon was suspended.

    Then Melvin managed a team full of more than a dozen rookies.

    To get 94 wins in the face of adversity with a team that fans had little expectations for was phenomenal.

    The 2012 season was magical all by itself. Melvin's accomplishment is icing on the cake.