Reggie Jackson earned the nickname Mr. October for a career that included 18 home runs across 11 playoff appearances. He twice won the World Series Most Valuable Player award.
The heroics started before he ever donned the Yankees pinstripes. In 1973, Jackson hit a two-run home run to lead the Oakland A’s to a World Series Game 7 win.
Thirty-one years later, that blast remained the last winner-take-all game Oakland had won — a streak that included six losses.
That number now stands at seven.
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The Royals came from behind to hand Oakland a 9-8 loss in 12 innings in the Wild Card Game on Tuesday at Kauffman Stadium.
And for Oakland, the heartbreak continues. All seven winner-take-all defeats have come since 2000.
It’s the third straight season to end in such fashion for the A’s.
Detroit right-hander Justin Verlander toed the rubber to eliminate the A’s in the American League Division Series with a Game 5 shutout in 2012. He repeated the feat a year later.
Then came Tuesday. The one that perhaps stung the most.
After all, it had gone so right for the A’s in the first seven innings — starting with manager Bob Melvin’s starting lineup.
Melvin opted for Brandon Moss in the cleanup spot, even though the left-handed designated hitter batted only .173 after the all-star break and only .151 across 65 plate appearances in September.
Moss blasted a pair of home runs — a two-run shot that traveled 407 feet in the first inning and a three-run jack that traveled 418 feet in the sixth.
The A’s had other options to fill the designated hitter spot, too. They acquired Adam Dunn from the White Sox on Aug. 31. He hit a pair of home runs last month.
Dunn entered the day as the player with the most career games played without a playoff appearance among active players. As a result, Melvin said it was a difficult conversation telling Dunn he wouldn’t be in the lineup for the Wild Card Game on Tuesday.
Dunn finished without an at-bat.
“It is, but he understands, too,” Melvin said. “I let him know earlier in the day that this was what we were probably looking at, so he’s not surprised when he comes in and sees the lineup. All our guys know that we do things a little differently here at times, and we’re trying to play for the day.”
The lineup maneuver worked. The bullpen failed to hold up its end of the bargain.
Closer Sean Doolittle allowed the game-tying run in the ninth. After the A’s regained the lead, Dan Otero was charged with allowing the game-tying run in the 12th before Jason Hammel gave up the game-winning hit to Sal Perez.
And the anguish heads into 2015.