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October 7, 2013
One win from ALCS, A's do their best to remain 'business-like'

OAKLAND -- Speaking statistically, historically and in just plain common sense, the A's put themselves in a much better position by winning Game 3 of their A.L. Division Series against the Tigers on Monday.

The A's lead the series 2-1 and are one win from advancing to the ALCS. Previously in the franchise's history, the A's had taken a 2-1 lead in 14 postseason series and gone on to win 11 of those series. They had fallen behind 1-2 six times and never come back to win any of them.

"It's where you want to be," catcher Stephen Vogt acknowledged. "Just having a chance to take it in Game 4, that's where you want to be. Once you have the advantage, you can hopefully take advantage of that and finish it."

That was about as positive an outlook as any A's player allowed Monday regarding their situation going into Tuesday's Game 4. Reliever Sean Doolittle characterized the mood in the clubhouse as "very businesslike," and it certainly seemed that way, with the normal loud music playing after a win but little else to suggest the A's might be on the verge of moving on.

"Especially facing a team like this, we're still on the road, we've still got a lot of work to do," Doolittle said. "Don't get me wrong, we're enjoying getting the win here and going up 2-1. But we know there's still a lot of work to be done."

The A's ostensibly have two chances to win one game, but first baseman Brandon Moss quickly shot down that kind of thinking.

"We don't look at it like that," Moss said. "I think that's a terrible way to look at it, two games to win a game, because that's just setting you up to play a bad game."

Whether or not it helps, the A's were still having to be on their toes regarding Tuesday's start time, which was dependent on the outcome of Monday night's game between the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays. The A's and Tigers were scheduled to play Game 4 at 5:07 p.m. ET, but that would be pushed back two hours to 7:07 p.m. if the Red Sox beat the Rays to sweep that series.

For that reason, the A's couldn't even get comfortable with what time to get on the bus to Comerica Park on Tuesday afternoon, much less the ramifications of a win.

Tigers manager Jim Leyland likewise said after Monday's game that he wouldn't manage Game 4 differently despite it now being an elimination game. "There's no different players or no different pitchers, anything of that nature," which ostensibly means Detroit won't consider starting 21-game winner Max Scherzer on three days rest, as the Dodgers chose to do with Clayton Kershaw facing elimination against the Braves on Monday.

Despite losing the series opener at home and scoring two runs over the first 17 innings against the Tigers, the A's will send rookie Dan Straily to the mound today with a chance to pitch Oakland into the next round. Closer Grant Balfour, who saved Monday's win, had this to say about the 2-1 lead:

"So far it's been a good run. But we've still got work to do. We've got one more. And we'd love to do it tomorrow."

* While it didn't have the dramatic heft nor the length of Sonny Gray's eight shutout innings in Game 2, Jarrod Parker's outing on Monday was effective enough to get the right-hander his first postseason win in three starts -- all against Detroit.

Parker threw five innings and allowed three runs, all in the fourth, when the Tigers put together a string of four hits in five at-bats. Outside of that, Parker allowed just one hit and no other runners past first base.

"For the most part, they got good hits, but it was pitches where we wanted them to be," Vogt said. "A couple (pitches) were elevated a little more than the other pitches he threw today. But for the most part they strung together good at-bats against him that inning and were able to fight off some good pitches and put them in play."

Otherwise, Parker said, he was able to keep his fastball down and go after an aggressive Tigers lineup that way, getting nine of his 15 outs on ground balls -- including a double play to end the fifth.

Parker finished the regular season by allowing seven runs in two of his final three starts, but said he didn't make any mechanical adjustments between his Sept. 28 outing and the start Monday. He said the eight days of rest probably helped, along with the atmosphere.

"It was a little more intensity on each every pitch," he said. "It's just the playoffs, I think is the best way to sum it up. It's one of those things where you've got to bring it each and every pitch, and I think that's the difference."

Manager Bob Melvin elected to pull Parker after five innings despite his being at just 73 pitches. Parker said he didn't argue. "I think it was the right move," he said. "It was the time for it."

Dan Otero, strengthening his hold on a key bullpen role, faced the heart of the Tigers order in the sixth and after allowing a single to Prince Fielder, got Victor Martinez to ground into an inning-ending double play. Otero also pitched the seventh, Doolittle pitched around a one-out walk of Torii Hunter in the eighth and Grant Balfour closed the game with little excitement -- outside of a bench-clearing incident with Martinez, that is.

"Dan was big," Parker said. "He did a great job. Our pen's been doing it all year, so I think it was one of those things where it just works out."

* Vogt had an adventurous inning on the basepaths in the fourth. After Josh Reddick homered off Anibal Sanchez to give the A's a 2-0 lead, Vogt hit a ball into the gap in right-center that kicked away from Hunter. The catcher legged out a triple -- his second since joining the A's -- and then scored on Coco Crisp's sacrifice fly to left field.

Vogt said that on the triple, "as soon as I saw it ricochet out towards center I put my head down and was going three no matter what." He also said he wasn't surprised to hear third base coach Mike Gallego telling him to tag up on Crisp's fly ball, though it was medium-deep at best and Crisp himself wasn't sure it would do the job.

"I didn't think it had a chance," Crisp said. "When I hit it, I was like, 'Oh, that sucks!'"

Tigers left fielder Jhonny Peralta, a natural shortstop starting in the outfield Monday for offensive reasons, made the catch but his throw appeared to die after its first hop. Vogt said he wasn't sure if Gallego's decision had anything to do with Peralta being in left, or if he surprised Peralta by tagging up on the play, but "I heard from Gallego to go, and that's all I really needed to hear."

Crisp said he thought a wind blowing from right to left might have thrown Peralta off.

"He has a good arm and I still think he made a one-hop throw, but his footwork because of the wind and the way he caught it made it easier for Vogt to score," Crisp said.

"I'm glad he did," Crisp added. "I know (Vogt) was tired."

* All the information and reaction to the Balfour-Martinez dust-up in the ninth can be found here. But just noticed that Balfour apparently wasn't done after talking to reporters.

Balfour about an hour ago posted to his Twitter account the following messages. First:

"What was Vic staring at? Way to fly out mate. Next time, stay in the box & watch your foul ball. Let's Finish This! #Athletics #BalfourRAGE"

He then wrote:

"Love all the big talk coming from #Tigers fans. Bring it on, I'd be mad too if my squad was headed towards an extended vacation. #OAKtober"

And then:

"The streets of Detroit must be flooding with the tears of whining #Tigers fans. Good A's team win. Save the drama, hit the ball or sit down."

So there's that. A little more buildup to Game 4, which, as of right now, still does not have an official start time. Regardless, it's Dan Straily against Doug Fister. Back then.

-- Matt Kawahara

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About Bay Area Baseball

Matt KawaharaMatt Kawahara was born in Sacramento and attended McClatchy High School and UC Berkeley, where he wrote for the independent student paper The Daily Californian. He graduated from Cal in 2010 and started at The Sacramento Bee as a summer intern. He joined The Bee’s sports staff in fall 2011.
Phone: (916) 321-1015.
On Twitter: @matthewkawahara.

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