A's goal becomes chipping away
Ignoring big picture, club must begin turnaround in Game 4
DETROIT -- Win or go home -- it has come down to that for the Oakland A's after dropping the first three games of the American League Championship Series.
But how do these A's, who have been outhit, .276 to .216, outscored, 16-6, and dominated in a comparison of ERA, 5.54 to 2.00, stop the relentless tide of Tigers, who have them on the brink of elimination?
To borrow a phrase from Al Davis, just win (one) baby.
Yet even that seems like an improbable task for this Oakland team at the moment. The Tigers aren't making mistakes and they're playing superb baseball, while the A's can't seem to generate much of anything offensively.
Makes you wonder whether desperate measures are required on Oakland's part.
"You've got to stick to your game, but you've also got to pull out all the stops," A's right fielder Milton Bradley said following Friday's 3-0 loss to Kenny Rogers and the Tigers. "The first two games, we played sloppy defense. Today, we ran into Kenny Rogers. He was unbelievable. He was so good, I felt like giving him a high-five myself. That was an incredible performance."
Oakland designated hitter Frank Thomas was asked what it will take to turn the series around.
"One great inning, one great inning," Thomas said. "We just need to get a couple of runs. They've kept the pressure on. Every time we've scored, they've countered. We've just been outplayed. I think it's more right now what Detroit is doing [than what we aren't doing] -- that's the bottom line. You tip your hat to them; we've just been outplayed."
The A's aren't the type of team that routinely manufacturers runs with a small-ball attack. They get on base, and sluggers like Thomas, Nick Swisher and Eric Chavez drive them in while the pitching staff usually keeps opponents in check. It worked well enough for the A's to get this far, even if it hasn't worked in the ALCS.
The Tigers have foiled Oakland's attack by limiting walks, generally staying ahead in counts and forcing the A's hitters to swing at their pitches. Detroit's excellent defense has robbed Oakland of at least three hits in the series, including two with runners in scoring position.
As long as the Tigers continue to make their pitches and make plays in the field, it will be very difficult for the A's offense to bounce back.
There's also the theory that the A's are flat after the emotional high of sweeping the Twins in the ALDS.
"I'm not making a big deal of being flat," Thomas said, "We look flat -- we don't look like ourselves. These hitters just look out of sync."
The A's are left clinging to the hope that as quickly as things turned for them following the ALDS, they can just as quickly turn the other way if they just win one game.
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"Our backs are against the wall, but if there is a group of guys who can do it, it's this group of guys in here," Oakland catcher Jason Kendall said. "We're just crazy enough to get it done."
Judging from the first three games, that would take something approaching a miracle, or at least a comeback comparable to what Boston did in 2004 after falling behind, 3-0, to the New York Yankees in the ALCS.
"You can't give up, and our guys aren't going to do that -- they're going to go out and play," Oakland manager Ken Macha said. "My friend over there in Boston, [Red Sox manager Terry] Francona, they were in the same position and they wound up doing it. So it's not an impossible task. You've just got to do that one game at a time."
Jim Molony is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.