A's fall short vs. Rangers in bid to clinch WC spot

Samardzija allows five runs over seven; Mariners win to stay alive

A's fall short vs. Rangers in bid to clinch WC spot

ARLINGTON -- With just one regular-season game to play, a spot in the American League Wild Card Game still eludes the A's, whose magic number remained 1 following a 5-4 loss to the Rangers at Globe Life Park on Saturday evening.

There the A's sat afterward, still in game-worn clothing, gathered past midnight CT around the television willing the Mariners to lose to the Angels, as that would've clinched it for the A's, who roared in sheer relief when Seattle loaded the bases in the ninth with none out in a tie game and failed to score. Alas, the Mariners pulled through against the Angels in the 11th, leaving the A's to fend for themselves come Sunday behind Sonny Gray.

Considering they put themselves in this position, it's rather fitting that they will have to handle business on their own.

"For sure," said 14-year veteran Adam Dunn, vying for his first postseason appearance. "I think that's the way I think everyone would want it."

Just months ago, the A's were considered a postseason lock, and for good reason, with baseball's best record mounted on their shoulders for weeks. Now, they may have to go through a potential Game 163 just to get there. For that to happen, they would have to lose Sunday and the Mariners, starting ace Felix Hernandez, would need to pull out another victory against the Halos.

"I'll tell you what, you just gotta be extremely fortunate to have the opportunity," said Jonny Gomes. "That's half the battle, is having the opportunity. You just gotta capitalize on that. We have the opportunity tomorrow. Destiny is in our hands. We don't scoreboard watch. It's on us."

The A's could've taken matters into their own hands much sooner, though, and liked their chances to do so Saturday after tough lefty Derek Holland was scratched less than an hour before game time because of a migraine headache. But they managed just two runs off fill-in Scott Baker, and Jeff Samardzija, who had not allowed an earned run in his previous 23 innings, coughed up five in his first loss since Sept. 5.

Now there's a chance Holland will start Sunday if he's feeling better.

"We were pumped despite Baker having great numbers against us," said Josh Reddick. "We were excited. I was really pumped. We all knew he had a short leash if he got in trouble, but got to give him credit, he pitched a great game, he did his job on short notice. Things didn't work out for us. We have to come ready tomorrow."

Samardzija allowed two home runs, and eight hits total, in seven innings of work, wiping away a 1-0 lead gained on Josh Donaldson's first-inning homer by surrendering back-to-back RBI hits to Rougned Odor and Adrian Beltre in the bottom half of the inning.

Jake Smolinski's one-out solo homer in the fourth extended Texas' lead, and though the A's plated a run in the fifth, the Rangers distanced themselves again via the long ball in the seventh, this one a two-out, two-run shot to Robinson Chirinos.

The A's staged a comeback in the eighth but fell one run short, getting back-to-back RBI singles from Reddick and Jed Lowrie with two outs. Alberto Callaspo's ensuing fly ball appeared to be headed out, but fell just short at the warning track in right field, denying the A's a lead and a chance to wipe away their magic number.

"It's beyond frustrating," said Reddick. "I think words can't describe it. We climb back, climb back and right when we get there, we can't get that one big hit we need. We all thought Callo got it with that hit, and just our luck, a ball goes to the wall that is going to put us up by two, and same old story it seems like, very frustrating and beyond it."

"The lineup battled today," said Samardzija. "They did a great job, did everything they needed to do. I'd just really like to have a shutdown inning in the seventh and get our guys back in there with a one-run deficit, and we're probably looking at a different outcome right now."

Oakland's loss also ceded home-field advantage in the Wild Card Game to either Kansas City or Detroit, whichever club doesn't win the AL Central. That's the least of the A's worry at the moment.

"We know where we stand, hold our own destiny, so hopefully we come out tomorrow and get it done," said Dunn.

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.