Oakland had to be devastated after Game 2. They had been winning close games all year long, and because of their ability to do that, they snuck into the playoffs and grabbed home-field advantage for the ALDS.
But now, they are down 0-2 and on the brink of elimination.
Detroit shocked Oakland with a 5-4 win on Sunday, as a walk-off sacrifice fly from utility player Don Kelly sent Comerica Park into a frenzy and the A’s into a state of frustration. The situation isn’t good for Oakland, who now needs to win three consecutive home games.
Yes, they did it at home against the Rangers to finish the season. However, they have to face Cy Young favorite Justin Verlander in Game 5, strikeout king Max Schrezer in Game 4 and Anibal Sanchez in Game 3. Sanchez is inconsistent, but he can be dominant when he’s on his game.
You can look at it from that perspective and have a pessimistic view about Oakland’s chances to bounce back and win the series. Or, you can look at it from their point of view. Jarrod Parker will pitch again, Tommy Milone could pitch from the bullpen in a potential Game 5, Brett Anderson will be back, and A.J Griffin will make a start.
Griffin struggled in his last outing, and he had problems in two previous outings as well. However, Oakland has picked him up, and he’s had time to dwell on his mistakes from the regular season finale. Anderson bounced back from an injury by pitching very well, and A’s fans have to feel confident about him.
Anderson went 4-2 with a 2.57 ERA in a brief span in the majors, before another injury slowed him down. Now, he has a chance to best the erratic Sanchez, eject any chances of a sweep for the Tigers and start another miracle at the Coliseum. Sanchez is 9-13 with an ERA near 4.00, while Anderson has enjoyed much more success.
Griffin will need to deliver, too. He is facing Max Schrezer, who strikes out batters with ease and has dissected top-notch offenses often. But he’s had injury problems of his own, and Oakland has a good offense.
Parker starts Game 5, and he is pitching well despite lacking his best stuff. Verlander’s pitch count ballooned quickly against Oakland in Game 1, as the A’s were patient at the plate and able to find some success against Verlander. They only scored one run, but they missed chances to score many more.
Oakland hasn’t been getting breaks in this series. Coco Crisp, known for slick fielding and lack of errors, made a costly error on a tough play that cost the A’s two runs. Ryan Cook, Sean Doolittle and Grant Balfour all collapsed, costing the A’s Game 2. Brandon Moss and Josh Donaldson just missed home runs in Game 1, costing Oakland a chance at winning that game.
In the playoffs, everything resets. The ball bounced Detroit’s way in Game 1, and the same thing happened in the second game. You can’t say that the A’s are due for some lucky breaks and leave it at that, expecting luck to propel them to the ALCS.
But you can still believe in the A’s, and you should. The odds are stacked against them, but they know how it feels to be pushed to the brink. Their offense isn’t performing horribly, and they still have a great bullpen. Even though the results aren’t there, the A’s haven’t been a bad team in the playoffs.
Bob Melvin’s approach and Oakland’s demeanor will be key. They don’t focus on winning three games. They take each game at a time, and they never give up. Oakland’s offense is capable of rallying, and their bullpen is capable of holding leads.
And now that they know how it feels to be down 2-0 in the playoffs, you can expect them to rebound. They may not win the series, but knowing the A’s, they will definitely make it interesting.