ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — The Oakland Athletics waited until the last day of the regular season to finally clinch their third consecutive playoff berth.
Adam Dunn’s wait to make the postseason for the first time lasted much longer: 2,001 games over 14 seasons.
“It’s what you work for your whole career,” said Dunn, who was traded to Oakland from the Chicago White Sox on Aug. 31. “I don’t know how fair it is that I get to enjoy kind of the fruit of their labor, but beggars can’t be choosers.”
Sonny Gray threw a six-hitter to win for the first time in five September starts, Josh Reddick had an RBI triple and Oakland beat the Texas Rangers 4-0 Sunday to clinch the American League’s second wild card.
The A’s play the win-or-go-home wild-card game Tuesday night at Kansas City, which won five of the seven games in the season series against Oakland (88-74).
Manager Bob Melvin stood in the middle of the clubhouse and gathered the team around him.
“We’re in. That’s three in a row,” he said before being showered with champagne and beer.
After winning the AL West the past two seasons, the A’s finally got in this time after a prolonged slump.
The A’s lost 30 of their previous 45 games before winning game No. 162.
“Now the pressure’s off, and now we just go out there and play,” said Gray, the 24-year-old right-hander who struck out five with no walks in his second career complete-game shutout, both this season against Texas.
“That was a huge,” said Jon Lester (16-11), the midseason addition who pitched in two World Series for Boston and will start will start the wild-card game. “That’s one of the more impressive games I’ve gotten to watch in a while.”
Dunn’s 2,001 career games with the A’s, White Sox, Cincinnati Arizona and Washington were the most by any active player before getting into the postseason. The 34-year-old slugger has said he plans to retire after this season when his contract is set to expire, and waived his no-trade clause for the White Sox to send him to the A’s less than a month ago.
Dunn got doused repeatedly during the celebration, and at one point dived onto the already-soaked floor after encouraging shouts from his teammates, who then showered him again.
“I played scenarios of this day out in my head probably a thousand times,” Dunn said. “I just want to celebrate with this team.”
After winning the AL West title the past two seasons, Oakland went into its game Aug. 10 with a 72-44 record that was the best in the majors. That was good for a four-game lead in the AL West and an 11-game edge in the wild-card standings.
Gray (14-10) was 12-3 at the end of July, but was 1-7 in his 11 previous starts before Sunday.
Nick Martinez (5-12) finished his rookie season allowing two runs and four hits over 5 2-3 innings. He struck out two without a walk.
Brandon Moss led off the Oakland second with a double to center, and Reddick followed with a triple over the head of center fielder Leonys Martin. Reddick scored on Stephen Vogt’s bloop single to make it 2-0. Jed Lowrie had a two-run single in the ninth.
Texas had two runners on with no outs in the fifth after Tomas Telis doubled and Ryan Rua got an infield single on a ball that ricocheted off Gray’s left foot. Trainers checked on Gray, who then got out of the inning by striking out Luis Sardinas and getting Adam Rosales to ground into a double play.
Oakland lost five of seven down the stretch to the Rangers, who finished 67-95 overall for their most losses since 99 in 1985. But they were 14-8 under interim manager Tim Bogar after Ron Washington resigned Sept. 5 for personal reasons.
“We played some really good teams down the stretch and we were pretty competitive and that’s all I can ask out of my club,” Bogar said. “If you ask Oakland, I think they’ll understand that they had to beat a pretty good team.”
Athletics: Lester (16-11 overall, 6-4 in 11 starts for Oakland) is set to start Tuesday night at Kansas City against James Shields.
Rangers: For the first time in five seasons, the Rangers are done after 162 games. Next is the offseason, when the first order of business will be to determine if Bogar will be their manager next season.
Athletics: Melvin didn’t even check with 3B Josh Donaldson before putting him in the lineup. Donaldson is still sore after awkwardly banging his left knee diving for a ball Friday night, but stayed in that game and played Saturday, when he homered and had a nice defensive play. “There is a lot of character involved in that,” Melvin said.
Rangers: Texas used the disabled list 26 times this season for 21 different players who missed a combined 2,011 games. Among the players on the 60-day disabled list that will have to be added back to the 40-man roster are Prince Fielder, Yu Darvish and Shin-Soo Choo.