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Fifth time's the charm?

Oakland hopes luck changes in return to postseason

Posted: Friday September 29, 2006 11:34AM; Updated: Monday October 2, 2006 5:35PM
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Frank Thomas
The A's didn't know what they'd get from Frank Thomas this season, but the Big Hurt has come through with 38 HRs and 109 RBIs through Thursday.
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The scene the other night in the Bay Area smacked of outright desperation, with a good dose of superstition, and not a little touch of bizarre humor, mixed in.

While the A's were in Seattle, trying to nail down a spot in the postseason for the first time since 2003, their normally chilled-out general manager was back home in Oakland, taking his lucky drive in his lucky car, pulling into his lucky parking spot near his lucky golf course, waiting for the lucky hour that he could nervously tune into the game on his car's lucky radio, just to see if the A's would win.

And the best part about Billy Beane's twitchy long-distance routine Tuesday night? It worked. The A's whomped the Mariners 12-3, won the American League West pennant and secured their place in the playoffs.

Now, if Beane can just conjure up a little of that mojo for the A's postseason....

"We're probably going to have more weaknesses than most clubs, because of our payroll," said a chipper Beane, looking ahead to the postseason, "but the fact that we have short series probably works to our advantage. We can get lucky."

Lucky, of course, would be something new for Beane's low-budget A's. During recent postseasons, the A's have been famously unlucky, something that will be brought up a thousand times in the days before they begin their AL Division Series against either the Tigers or the Twins next week. From 2000 to '03, the A's won their way into the postseason only to trip in the first round each time.

You want to talk about rotten luck? First it was Terrence Long losing Tino Martinez's ball in the sun in a six-run first inning of Game 5 of the 2000 ALDS against the Yankees. In '01, again against the Yankees, Jeremy Giambi forgot to slide. In Game 5 of the '02 ALDS, closer Billy Koch gave up a two-run homer in the ninth inning to the Twins' A.J. Pierzynski. In '03 the A's won the first two games against the Red Sox, then dropped the final three by a total of four runs. In Game 5 they had the first two men on in the bottom of the ninth but couldn't score, losing 4-3.

That was the type of run Beane's A's were on in the early part of the decade. And when they failed to reach the postseason altogether the past two years, it appeared that even the team's regular-season string of luck had run out.

After overcoming a slew of injuries and cruising through another phenomenal second half this season, though, the A's have returned to the playoffs. This time with a different type of team, a team that might be -- if the regular season is any indication -- a little more resistant to bad postseason luck.

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