The Oakland A’s reached the ALCS in 2006. They won the AL West Division title that year with a 93-69 record.
The 2006 A’s held up against the other top contenders that summer, but one factor that topped off their grand total was a 17-2 mark against the Seattle Mariners. They played 19 times against each other and Oakland took all but two.
Without this one-sided matchup, the A went 76-67 against the rest of the league. That’s still pretty good, but not entirely good for the division title, more like an 86-win pace. They finished four games ahead of runner-up Angels (89 wins), so Oakland’s dominance of the Mariners played a big part in the result – and the wild card was out of the question with 95 wins for the Tigers at AL Central.
The Halos had won the West for the previous two seasons and would win the next three in a row, so they might have had a six-year reign of the division had it not been for buzzing Seattle so tough in 2006.
Plus, the Mariners weren’t a bad team this summer. They finished last but they were just a few games under .500 at 78-84. Oakland didn’t beat up on a doormat, they oddly dominated a solid rival in the division. In fact, Seattle went against all other opponents … 76-67, just like the A’s.
What if the pendulum swung the other way? If Seattle had stormed Oakland instead, it might have been the 2006 playoffs. Their offensive and pitching were above average compared to the rest of the league, their line-up had a pair of future Hall of Famers in Ichiro Suzuki and Adrian Beltre, and their deep veteran rotation was led by Superstar Felix Hernandez. Why not her The next year they won 88 games.
But A’s starters Barry Zito, Dan Haren, Joe Blankon, and Rich Harden combined to go 12-0 with a 1.47 ERA and the hitters went off on the plate behind Nick Swisher, Marco Scutaro, Jay Payton, Jason Kendall, and future HOFers Frank Thomas. Oakland beat them with 124-64, an average of 6-3 per game, including four shutouts and two more double-digit blowouts.
The Mariners still haven’t made it through the postseason since then. They set up seasons of 88, 85, 87, 86 and 89 wins, but missed the cut every time – in 2014 they missed the second wild card by one game behind the A’s. Seattle’s last trip in October was in 2001, two decades ago, by far the longest playoff drought in the four major US sports. The A’s have gone six times in the past ten years.
Here in the East Bay, we think we’re having a hard time because we can’t get past repeated arch enemies like Detroit and Boston and New York to win a post-season series. In the north, they couldn’t even pass Oakland to even reach the postseason.
Did you know that in the 44 years of the #Mariners’ existence, they’ve seen more torn testicles (five) than playoff appearances (four)?
– Danny O’Neil (@dannyoneil) October 1, 2021
In 2021 the pendulum finally swung in the other direction.
This year wasn’t the first time the Mariners had come out on top. They finished 14-5 on the season streak in both 2007 and 2009, but it didn’t make much difference either way. Oakland was mediocre anyway, and Seattle didn’t make the playoffs even with the boost.
But this time the stars were aligned for another meaningful collision. Both clubs were on the hunt for wild cards, and when the Mariners went 15-4 against the A’s, it was enough to knock Oakland out of the running entirely and catapult Seattle back into the race. The Mariners saw the last dozen meetings between them, including seven within 10 days in mid / late September.
Two games in the campaign face the Mariners 89-71 while the A’s are 86-74. Compared to the rest of the league, Seattle is 74-67 while Oakland is 82-69. Flip five of these games over with the Mariners winning “only” 10 out of 19, and the A’s would now take the first wild card position. There are many reasons why there won’t be an October this year as the team was far from perfect, but mathematically, the futility against Seattle alone made all the difference.
And it’s not just looking back like the June losses all came back before we knew they were going to matter. The A’s still had a chance of getting into September 20th and rode a five-game winning streak. All they needed was just the kind of late-season magic that we see pulling all the time and that they were right in the middle of their brewing. But the Mariners stopped them with a four-game sweep at the Coliseum. When Oakland recovered to sweep the first-place Astros and stay alive, Seattle swept them again to officially eliminate them.
The last 25 matches of A.
– Brodie Brazil (@BrodieNBCS) September 30, 2021
After beating Houston again on Friday, the A’s have won their last nine non-Mariners games against three different opponents. What if it hadn’t been for her pesky Poseidon’s heel?
It gets even more tempting how close the matchup really was. While the A’s of 2006 thoroughly overran Seattle, the Mariners won six of their games with just one run and another five with two runs in 2021. Oakland was only beaten 87-70, an average of just over 4-3. Two of the losses came from blown saves and two more from blown ties in the 7th and 9th innings, respectively. Just flip these four results over and the A’s will be the same for the second wild card.
Instead, the Mariners battle for the postseason in the last few days of summer while the A’s play the string before heading home for the winter. Current players probably don’t think about the 2006 story, if they are even aware of it, and if they have a revenge tale on their mind, it’s the one that surrounds comments from Oakland Pitcher Cole Irvin in May.
But on a cosmic franchise level, this is an amortization. In 2006, the A’s used Seattle as a stepladder for the playoffs, and now, 15 years later, the wheel has turned and it’s time to pay the toll, with the Mariners directly snapping away the potential for a berth in Oakland in 2021 .
Chris Bassitt: “I don’t know how many people would have said this year that the Mariners are better than us. But the game proves otherwise.”
– Martin Gallegos (@MartinJGallegos) September 29, 2021