OAKLAND -- Inning after inning, all night long, the A's sought their moment, that electrifying instant, that inevitable rally they've made a habit of generating.
There were few signs of despair even as it became evident they were overmatched. Oakland starter Jarrod Parker kept pitching, at times quite well, and the A's kept taking their hacks at the plate.
The hitters got nothing and now their incredible, indelible season is over.
It finally ended Thursday night with a 6-0 loss to Detroit in a decisive Game 5 that was defined mostly by helpless swings against the best pitcher in baseball.
It took 122 pitches from Tigers ace Justin Verlander to enforce reality upon the A's. He went the full nine, allowing four hits and striking out 11.
Performances such as this explain why Verlander is the reigning American League MVP and Cy Young award winner and why he was the A.L. Pitcher of the Month in a crucial September.
And, to put this into proper context, Verlander, making $20 million this season, is supposed to silence a team for which the entire roster payroll amounts to about $50 million.
So Oakland should feel no shame at all. It somehow captured the A.L. West with 94 wins, which nobody saw coming. It found a way to stretch, against long odds, this A. L. Division Series to the maximum five games.
And it didn't blink while losing to a veteran right-hander throwing barely visible fastballs, a tantalizing
"He never throws the same pitch twice," marveled Josh Donaldson.
"He had that look in his eyes," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said of Verlander. "He had that complete-game look in his eye."
The A's, the little team that could, and did, have every reason to be proud of what they've accomplished. With 12 rookies on their 25-man roster, the A's rode their precocious talent and palpable chemistry a good month longer than anyone could have projected.
And, yes, that includes those A's who say they believed all along. They may have, but even they realize this has been an unforgettable season.
For this team's whole was so much greater than the sum of its parts. Nobody in the lineup made the All-Star team, and no one deserved to -- though rookie Yoenis Cespedes likely will become a regular at those midsummer gatherings.
That these A's were built with such detail, around terrific pitching and power hitting, is a credit to the ingenuity of the front office, led by general manager Billy Beane.
That they overachieved to such a staggering level points to the preparation, proficiency and interpersonal skill of manager Bob Melvin.
Parker's valiant effort couldn't offset the lack of offense, which simply couldn't compete with Detroit's pitching, certainly not Verlander, who earned the win in two of the three victories.
"We felt like Parker was really good, too, but when Verlander gets on a roll like he was today ... it's tough to stop him," Melvin said.
Great pitching nullifies a decent lineup. Always has, always will. It's baseball. It's the way of the game.
It's something Leyland, a crusty old lifer, fully understands. He was reflecting before the game on how his team, only one night earlier, had been three outs from the series-clinching Game 4 victory when the A's hijacked it away with three runs in the ninth. What he had to say about the aftermath was both refreshing and enlightening.
"I wasn't as upset as everybody was (Wednesday) night, and I'll tell you why," he said. "We didn't walk them. We didn't hit a batter. We didn't make an error. We didn't throw the ball away. We didn't make a bad fundamental play.
"They beat us. They earned it. They hit the ball."
The A's didn't give anything away. They didn't embarrass themselves on the big stage. They didn't do anything that informed the world they were out of place.
They simply failed to hit enough, something they occasionally did this season. Something all teams do.
The A's and their fans, over time, will forget the three hours on their final night. They will remember, for many years, this 2012 season.