IN SPORTS: A’S KNOCKED OUT OF PLAY­OFFS

Lodi News-Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - By Lau­rence Miedema

OAK­LAND — The A’s en­tered Wed­nes­day night’s Amer­i­can League Wild Card Game with a full house and a team seem­ingly poised for a play­off break­through.

They ended up with more heart­break and an abrupt end to their sea­son in a 5-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays be­fore a sea­son­high home crowd of 54,005, a record for any Wild Card game.

It was an­other play­off bro­ken record for the A’s and their fans.

The A’s, 97-game win­ners each of the past two sea­sons, have lost the Wild Card Game three times in the past six sea­sons and haven’t won a play­off se­ries since the 2006 ALCS against the Twins.

Since then there have been six play­off se­ries that went nowhere but home.

“It’s frus­trat­ing,” A’s man­ager Bob Melvin said. “It’s very sud­den. In base­ball, you usu­ally have a se­ries and can come back to­mor­row (fol­low­ing a loss). There’s no re­spond­ing in a game like this. It can be a dif­fi­cult game.

“We’re proud of what we did this year. We just got beat in one game.”

Former A’s re­liever Emilio Pa­gan put the fi­nal nail in the A’s sea­son, strik­ing out Mar­cus Semien to send Tampa Bay play­ers stream­ing onto the field. The Rays’ open their ALDS se­ries against the Astros on Fri­day.

One of the bright spots for the A’s on Wed­nes­day night was rookie left-han­der Je­sus Luzardo, who looked ev­ery bit the part of a fu­ture fran­chise ace since his late-sea­son pro­mo­tion and again dur­ing his first mo­ment on the na­tional stage. Luzardo en­tered the game with the A’s trail­ing 5-1 in the sixth in­ning and struck out four and al­lowed one hit in three in­nings.

Melvin ac­knowl­edged Luzardo, who was in­jured most of the sea­son, will be a mem­ber of the ro­ta­tion next sea­son. It’ll be a team Melvin ex­pects to take an­other crack at get­ting the fran­chise over the play­off hump.

“We have the mak­ings for an even bet­ter team next year,” Melvin said.

But what about those win-orout Wild Card games?

“What we need to do is win the di­vi­sion to play a longer se­ries,” Melvin said.

Things un­rav­eled quickly for the A’s on Wed­nes­day, much like last sea­son’s 7-2 Wild Card Game loss to the Yankees in the Bronx.

The A’s went with left-han­der Sean Manaea over 15-game win­ner Mike Fiers against the Rays in part to take away some of Tampa Bay’s pow­er­ful left-handed bats. Manaea also had been the sharper of the two down the stretch, go­ing 4-0 with a 1.21 ERA in five starts af­ter com­ing back from shoul­der surgery.

But the plan back­fired on the A’s.

Manaea al­lowed a lead­off home run to Yandy Diaz, a righthande­d bat­ter who likely would have been on the bench if the A’s started a right-han­der. It was a start rem­i­nis­cent to the Yankees loss when A’s “opener” Liam Hen­driks was tagged for a tworun home run by Aaron Judge in the first in­ning.

Manaea re­grouped to strike out the next three bat­ters, but the Rays right-handed pla­toon stung Manaea re­peat­edly.

Avi­sail Gar­cia hit a two-run homer be­fore Manaea re­tired a bat­ter in the sec­ond, and Diaz, who, be­cause of in­juries, wasn’t ac­ti­vated un­til the fi­nal day of the reg­u­lar sea­son and didn’t have a hit in the ma­jors since July 22, home­red again to lead off the third in­ning and end Manaea’s night.

DIRK SHADD/TRIBUNE NEWS SER­VICE

Tampa Bay Rays sec­ond base­man Michael Brosseau turns a dou­ble play over the Oak­land Ath­let­ics' Rob­bie Gross­man (8) in the Amer­i­can League Wild Card game on Wed­nes­day in Oak­land.

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