The Tigers and Athletics, who hold the American League's two best records, will reprise their 2012 and 2013 ALDS meetings for a four-game set in Oakland starting Monday.
Detroit skipper Brad Ausmus will be up against his former bench coach, A's manager Bob Melvin. In 2000, during Ausmus' second tenure as a catcher in the Tigers' organization, Melvin served under then-manager Phil Garner.
"He worked with the catchers in Spring Training," Ausmus said of Melvin. "When he did plays at the plate, he would actually slide into home plate. And he came up with blood on his leg. He did it about 10 times, 15 times in a row -- headfirst, on the legs."
Of course, Ausmus wasn't with Detroit when the club eliminated Oakland in each of the past two seasons. Both times, Justin Verlander tossed a gem in a decisive Game 5 to advance the Tigers to the ALCS.
The A's will miss Verlander this time around, but they've still got their work cut out for them. Monday's matinee contest follows a lengthy flight back from Toronto on Sunday night, though the Tigers flew from Detroit after an afternoon game.
"It is difficult," Melvin said. "It's on the schedule and you know it ahead of time, but it doesn't make it any easier."
This will be the Tigers' fifth stop of a stretch in which they play six series in six cities. They were home for just four days from their last three-city trip before hitting the road this week for Oakland and Seattle.
"It was a short stint at home for sure," Ausmus said. "And having a day game tomorrow won't make it restful. It's always good to sleep in your own bed, I guess. It was certainly a short stint. It would've been nice to have Memorial Day at home."
According to Melvin, the renewal of a budding rivalry between the teams can add an extra energy to a first-half series.
"During the season, the players just kind of look at it as another good team in a stretch of good teams that we have right now, but it's four games, and certainly the history of the postseason would suggest there's more to a series like that," he said.
Lefty Tommy Milone will start the first game for Oakland. He has a 1.37 ERA over his past three starts after posting a 5.86 ERA over his first five.
"When I go out there I feel confident," Milone said. "Really, the last three starts [Derek Norris] has caught me, I don't think I've shook him off one time. It's a really comfortable feeling knowing I can go out there and whatever he throws down, I can execute it."
Milone started Game 2 of the 2012 ALDS against Detroit and allowed one run over six innings. His counterpart Monday, fellow lefty Drew Smyly, has pitched only in relief in the playoff series.
Smyly, who will be starting for the first time in a week, is 2-2 with a 2.97 ERA in six starts this year.
"They've got a good team, we've got a good team," Smyly said. "I know their record.
Tigers: Basestealing helping to distract opposing pitchers
Part of the reason for the Tigers' aggressiveness on the bases this season was to create more consistent scoring opportunities at different spots in the lineup. Part of it, too, was to potentially distract pitchers in run-production situations.
It's hard to find data to tell definitively whether that's happening, but Ausmus believes having Ian Kinsler and Rajai Davis on base has had an effect on how his RBI producers are pitched. Sunday, Davis stole his 15th base of the season, which ranks second in the AL.
"I don't know if there are any hard numbers on it," Ausmus said. "It seems to me with Rajai and Kinsler on base, some of the pitchers' attention is being diverted from the hitter. But it's kind of a difficult thing to put a stat on.
"I'm not writing down every single pitch they throw with Rajai Davis on first. It just seems that some of the pitchers, not all of them, become more distracted with those guys on base, which theoretically should improve the odds of getting a pitch to hit."
A's: Punto remains day-to-day with calf strain
Infielder Nick Punto missed the final game of the A's three-game series finale in Toronto while nursing a left calf strain and is expected to be held out of Monday's lineup, too.
"We'll evaluate him once again when we get home tomorrow," Melvin said Sunday. "He feels a little better, but it's tough to really get a grasp on it until he really takes off."
The A's still believe Punto will not need to go on the disabled list.
• The series between Oakland and Detroit is thought to be the first matchup between two Jewish managers in Major League history.
• The Giants, who entered Sunday at 31-18, are the only team in baseball with a better record than the Tigers and A's.
• Detroit has allowed more runs over its past five games than in any five-game stretch since June 28-July 2, 2011.
Matt Slovin is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.