OAKLAND -- Ray Fosse's primal scream Cliff Pennington's one-man dog pile Coco Crisp's walk-off hit that made the Oakland Coliseum shake It's playoff baseball alright, but it feels different than it normally does. There's something undoubtedly special about what the A's are doing. It has felt like that since June 2, when they started surging and really never looked back with a 72-38 record the rest of the way en route to winning the American League West on the final game of the season. This after never holding sole possession of first place all year. Only eight teams in the history of Major League Baseball have come back from a 2-0 deficit in a best of five series. It can be done. Heck, the Giants just did it a few minutes ago. It only seemed fitting that the A's would be forced to try to do it themselves. If this season really is a script for Moneyball 2, as many have joked, then it can't be anything but overly dramatic. What's more dramatic than rallying from a two run deficit in the bottom of the ninth to force a win-or-go-home Game Five? Having to face the reigning MVP and Cy Young award-winner, Justin Verlander, who happens to be 3-0 against the A's this season in the elimination game. After going up 2-0 the Tigers are the team under pressure. "You know it's not easy to play here," Verlander said. "So we put ourselves in a position where we just need to win one.Whatever game that is, doesn't matter.So hopefully it's the fifth one." Verlander will be opposed by Jarrod Parker. At 23, he is the youngest player in the last 15 years to start a deciding playoff game. The youngest to do so was Jaret Wright who was 21 when he pitched for the Indians against the Marlins in Game Seven of the 1997 World Series. He lost. Mark Mulder was 24 when he took the hill for the A's in Game Five of the ALDS against the Yankees. He also lost. No pressure. "To us and as a team, a group, the pressure, it's not built by us," Parker said."It's not put on by us.We know we're playing the same game. And we love playing in front of our crowd. And we love playing at home."The Tigers have the Verlander advantage. Six years ago today he was the winning pitcher as the Detroit Tigers swept the A's in the ALCS in 2006. The A's have the momentum and they have the home field advantage. Including the postseason the Tigers are 38-45 on the road this season. Can that help them beat the Tigers' ace? In his three starts against the A's this season he has allowed a total of two runs. However, the A's have battled against him. He hasn't gone deeper than seven innings in any of the three starts. They've had their chances to do damage against him and have fallen just short. "I think you gain confidence from being on the verge," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "His stuff was a lot better last time and we still had some opportunities and still to a certain extent got his pitch count up there. I think any time you get him to a point where you get him out of the game in the seventh with a 120 pitches or some under his belt, you've done some good things." That gives the A's a chance to work against Detroit's bullpen. If Parker can limit the damage then the A's who lead Major League Baseball with 15 walk-off wins will have a chance for late-inning heroics. Anything can happen. It's the playoffs. All we know is that one team will be packing their bags and heading home, while the other will live to fight another day.
Win or go home for the A's
October 11, 2012, 9:26 pm