MLB playoffs: Oakland Athletics seal post-season berth despite starting season with lowest payroll in the league

Ed Malyon
The Oakland Athletics celebrate reaching the post-season: Getty

The Oakland Athletics may have the lowest payroll in Major League Baseball, but it didn't stop them from clinching a playoff berth for the first time since 2014 as they dispatched the Seattle Mariners on Monday night.

A franchise best-known outside the USA for its part in Moneyball, the Michael Lewis book and later movie staring Brad Bitt, pulled off a very Moneyball sort of miracle by becoming the first team on record to reach the post-season having entered the year with the lowest wage bill.

The A's entered 2018 with a payroll of just $62.65m, less than a third of the league-leading San Francisco Giants ($221.43m) and Boston Red Sox ($206.25m).

Jed Lowrie is covered in beer and champagne as Oakland reach the playoffs (Getty)

It is an extraordinary achievement for a team expected to be nowhere near the playoff mix. The A's were predicted to have a win total of around 75, as last season, but overperformed in a very competitive American League West to secure at worst a wildcard spot.

The New York Yankees' win over Tampa Bay meant Oakland needed only to win against the Seattle Mariners to clinch but it also meant that the Yankees will likely have home-field advantage for their wildcard tilt against the Athletics next month.

Having begun the season unspectacularly, Oakland burned hot during the summer months, posting records of 17-10, 17-8 and 18-9 during June, July and August to scream into contention. Chasing down the Houston Astros in the AL West was always likely to prove impossible and the Texas franchise could become the first team since the 2004-05 St Louis Cardinals to post back-to-back 100-win seasons, an impressive feat in itself. But given how little money the Athletics had spent, the playoffs always seemed like a distant dream.

They discovered an unheralded superstar, however, in Khris Davies, one of the best home run hitters in baseball since being traded to Oakland two years ago. He boasts 130 homers since arriving in the Bay Area, far and away the most in the league during that period, and much of their playoff success will rest on his bulging shoulders and the ability of their bullpen to keep things tight.

"It's a lot of fun," a champagne-soaked Khris Davis said as they celebrated playing ball in October. "We're just trying to enjoy the moment. It's a blast. We've been waiting for this day for a while. I feel so much excitement.

"It's just a dream come true."