OAKLAND -- Sad to report this. But the A's are not going to face the Giants in the World Series. Or anyone else.
Sad to look at the scoreboard Thursday night at O.co Coliseum and see this: Detroit 6, A's 0.
Sad to see the A's lose the series and sit glumly in the dugout as the Tigers celebrated on the field. Sad to see the A's not be able to enter their locker room and open the champagne that was ready to be uncorked if they should clinch and advance.
But know what? When they are able to step back and consider what they accomplished over the past few months, they might want to open up some champagne, anyway. Because the sadness should not last long.
It didn't even last that long Thursday night, really. After the final out, following a few seconds of silence as the Detroit players tumbled and embraced, the 36,393 people in the Coliseum began to construct a farewell roar. The yellow towels spun around one last time. Applause cascaded down from the seats.
The A's players responded by stepping out of the dugout and tipping their caps and pointing back at the seats. They made a little huddle themselves between the dugout and the third base coaching box as the crowd chanted: "Let's go Oakland." They embraced and congratulated each other.
And then, at long last, the players finally traipsed up the runway toward their locker room, giving high fives to fans along the box seat railing.
"They kind of gave us a curtain call," said A's manager Bob Melvin of the fans. "We truly appreciate that."
—It was very special," said centerfielder Coco Crisp. "You know, not having to come in the locker room and shake hands and tell the guys it was a pleasure playing with them. We were able to do that out there, in front of the fans. Which is kind of unusual."
Not that unusual for a unique team, perhaps. No, the A's could not match the Giants' come-from-behind series victory of earlier in the day. But that hardly seemed to be the point. Even if Melvin was not ready to step back yet.
"We didn't think it was going to end today, not for a second," said Melvin. "It's a bit of a shock when it finally does end. It was a heck of a story, a heck of a run for us. But it doesn't feel any better at the end of the day. Hopefully, we can go farther next year."
Right here is the place in this column where we pause and invoke the inevitable bromide: "What would you have thought if someone had told you in April that the A's would end up in the playoffs and go to the limit with a Detroit team that included the sure-thing Most Valuable Player of the American League?"
You would think that it was going to be one helluva season. That's what you would think. And that is what it was.
After winning just 74 games in 2011 and being given 100-1 odds of winning the AL West at mid-season, the A's won 94 games and seized the division title on the season's last day. The A's did this with a payroll of $55 million, less than half that of division rivals Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels (and less than half the payroll of the Giants across the Bay, for that matter).
Oh, for much of Thursday night, the sound at O.co Coliseum was definitely a different sound than the sound we heard on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. It was the sound of air slowly leaking out of a balloon, courtesy of Detroit starting pitcher Justin Verlander.
If he isn't baseball's best pitcher, he is in the discussion. The Tigers won the series by defeating the A's three times--and two of those victories were by Verlander, who struck out 11 batters Thursday. It was his fifth straight win against Oakland. Verlander, in his postgame remarks, called the Coliseum atmosphere "the toughest I've ever played in -- these fans were unbelievable."
Still, he pitched as comfortably as if he were in his backyard bullpen.
Meanwhile, the A's pitching allowed zero hits in Game 5 to Detroit third baseman Miguel Cabrera, the presumptive MVP after winning the AL Triple Crown. But the Tigers didn't need him. Their two runs in the third inning were enough.
The A's, by contrast, never had a runner move beyond second base all night. That was pretty much the story of the game. But it shouldn't be remembered as the story of the season.
In the losing locker room that was not the locker room of a loser, a few A's players were asked this question: If they could take one snapshot from this season, frame it and nail it to the wall, what would that picture be?
Crisp said he would choose the photo that was taken after the A's won the division title on that giddy afternoon last week, when they organized an impromptu team picture on the field long after the final out, drenched from beer and champagne and smiling broadly.
Josh Donaldson said it would be a picture of a walk-off victory, one of the 15 authored by the improbable A's, followed by the inevitable pie-in-the-face commemoration. Cliff Pennington said it would be a photo of the happy postgame mayhem following Wednesday's comeback ninth inning victory.
Brandon McCarthy, however, said the picture to frame would be the one after Thursday's last pitch, with the players on the field saluting the crowd that was saluting them.
"I would say that one," McCarthy decided. "That's the one."
No argument here.