played 137 games, hit 39 home runs, drove in 114 runs and gave Oakland its
first true middle-of-the-order slugger since Giambi left after the 2001 season.
"He's a different man from the guy I knew in Chicago," says Oakland
righty Esteban Loaiza, who pitched for the White Sox in '03 and '04. "He's
having much more fun. And he's a big influence on the young players, helping
them all the time. He wasn't like that in Chicago."
Says first baseman
Nick Swisher, "He's been like a big brother to me. He's taught me so much
about the game this year. One man's trash is another man's treasure."
In his first
postseason at bat for Oakland, Thomas whacked a home run off lefthander Johan
Santana, the Minnesota ace who had been unbeatable in 23 home starts since
August 2005. Oakland would never lose control of the series. (Thomas ripped
another homer in the ninth, becoming the oldest player to hit two homers in a
postseason game.) In Thomas's final plate appearance in the series, the Twins
intentionally walked him with two outs and nobody on base in the seventh inning
of Game 3. The walk sparked a four-run rally that put a 4--2 game out of
The Tigers and the
A's showed plenty of similarities after they were done playing, partying with
an intensity that rivaled their power pitching and was over the top for a
first-round victory. Zumaya, for instance, skipped the Mexican champagne and
indulged in the real stuff, executing an on-field simultaneous double-fisted
pour from above his head and down his throat while Detroit fans roared. The A's
drank nearly as much beer and champagne as they sprayed and poured down one
another's shirts and pants. The bacchanalia spoke to the teams' youth but also
to the players' unfamiliarity with the moment.
mindful of his role as team elder, tried injecting a bit of sobriety into the
proceedings. First he warned his teammates before they ran on the field after
the last out, "Don't get anybody hurt out there." Then, when the party
moved into the clubhouse, Thomas found a dry, calm spot near the doorway to the
clubhouse and kept repeating, "This is only step two." (Ultimately he
joined in the revelry and allowed himself to be doused by teammate Bobby
Of course, for two
teams that bring a sense of newness and exuberance to the ALCS, such a reminder
carries more potential good news: the opportunity for another, even bigger
coverage and analysis of each League Championship Series game, plus all the
latest news and rumblings in Jon Heyman's Daily Scoop at SI.com/baseball.