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Moneyball - 20-GAME WINNING STREAK

Achieving a 20-game winning streak, in the regular season, the Oakland A's react to that reality in September of 2002. The team became the American League West champions that year. Image online via cdn.govexec.com.

 

When the 2002 season began, the A's had a reasonable start.  By May, they were struggling.  After a sweep by the Blue Jays in Toronto, they were floundering.  After their first game against the Orioles, during a stint at home, they had 19 wins and 25 losses.

Oakland's scouts, and other detractors of the sabermetrics method, could privately gloat.  Some publicly slammed the "moneyball" process which Billy Beane had insisted would help the A's rebuild after losing three top players.  (Parenthetically, some people still think the approach is bogus.)

On the 7th of June, the team was even again, after defeating the Astros.  Their season record stood at 30-30.

The Blue Jays came to Oakland on the 12th of August.  The last time the two teams had met, the A's lost every time.  They lost the first game of the August match-up, too.

Then ... overcoming their obstacles, the A's began to function like a single, winning unit.  With their record at 68-51, they started a winning streak.  They won the rest of their games against the Blue Jays.  Next they swept the White Sox, at home.

On the road they crushed the Indians, the Tigers, the Royals. 

Back home, on the 30th of August, they kept the streak going against the Twins.  On the 4th of September, still playing at their own Coliseum, they were up 11-0 in the second of two games against Kansas City.

Then they blew their lead.  Totally.  Scoring nothing further, for inning after inning, the A's let the Royals tie the game at 11-11.

Winning 19 games in a row was a terrific achievement, but the A's - and their fans - had been hoping for 20.  No American League team had accomplished such a feat in decades.

In the bottom of the ninth inning, Art Howe took a risk.  With the score at 11-11, he summoned Scott Hatteberg from the bench.

The former-catcher-turned-first-baseman (thanks to the help of coach Ron Washington) - who thought he might never play baseball again after hurting his catching hand - stepped up to the plate and ... hit a home run.

In less than a month, the A's had pulled-off a baseball miracle.  They'd outscored all opponents 141 to 65, trailing in only 10 of 180 innings during their 20-game-winning streak.

Barry Zito, Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Cory Lidle pitched so well they were still throwing into the seventh inning in all but 6 of the 20 games.

And it wasn't just Hatteberg who had a game-winning walk-off hit.  Miguel Tejada did as well - not to mention all his other runs-batted-in (causing him to win the 2002 American-League MVP Award).

At the end of the streak, the A's were the American League West champions.  People still debate whether sabermetrics, and the "Moneyball" approach, was a contributing factor to their succss.

Although they faltered in the post-season, the A's had outplayed teams with far-richer budgets during the regular season. For comparison purposes, MLB records show the following numbers on August 31, 2002:

                                   WINS       LOSSES        PAYROLL

Oakland                      103            59             $ 41,942,665

Anaheim                       99            63             $ 62,757,041

Seattle                          93            69             $ 86,084,710

Texas                           72             90            $106,915,180

Cory Lidle performed so well, during the 20-game winning streak, that he won all five of his starts and gave up only one run the entire month.  Four years later, however, he was in serious trouble right after the 2006 playoffs.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5089stories and lessons created

Original Release: Sep 01, 2011

Updated Last Revision: Jan 30, 2016


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"20-GAME WINNING STREAK" AwesomeStories.com. Sep 01, 2011. Aug 22, 2017.
       <https://www.awesomestories.com/asset/view/20-GAME-WINNING-STREAK-Moneyball>.
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