A famous employee who once made his name at the Oakland Coliseum once said this of a tough loss on the road: "It's in the can."
That was Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker Ted Hendricks after the Raiders lost an overtime game to the San Diego Chargers in 1980. The Raiders responded by getting to the conference title game and avenging that loss to San Diego to go to their third Super Bowl.
How does that relate to a baseball team 32 years later? It's simple. When all the analysis is done, the A's still have their home-field advantage. Detroit did what they were supposed to do, and that's win at home. Now, Oakland has to win their games at home to advance.
What's the formula for doing that? Well, first and foremost, getting out of Detroit. Comerica Park has been a nightmare for the A's, who have gone 7-17 there since the 2006 ALCS. In contrast, Oakland has posted a 21-12 record against Detroit at the Oakland Coliseum in that same time frame.
This year, the A's split their four-game series against Detroit back in May. Both teams are a lot different now. One of Oakland's losses came on the arm of Bartolo Colon, who obviously is not pitching for the A's in this series, and probably won't the remainder of the year.
To win, Oakland has got to limit three things. First, they cannot commit any more self-inflicted wounds. Errors in both games led to three runs and made the difference between a split and looking at elimination. Detroit was the team that was supposed to be suspect on defense, but it has been the A's making the mistakes.
Speaking of Detroit's defense, the A's have to put more balls in play. We all knew this team strikes out a ton and would struggle in the first two games. But if you're not going to sacrifice more, then putting the ball in play is paramount. In two games, Oakland has struck out 23 times. Playing for single runs may have made the difference in Game 2, but the A's had their chances.
And lastly, when the A's score, they've got to stop the Tigers from scoring right back. Oakland has scored in four different innings. In the bottom of each of those innings, Detroit has responded. Playing with a lead, with what is sure to be a raucous crowd in Oakland, is essential to get back into this series.
The silver lining to Game Three: Oakland's only win in Detroit this year came against starter Anibal Sanchez, who will get the ball Tuesday night. You can't win three until you win one. The A's have defied the odds all year long. They will have to start doing it again to keep their postseason going.
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