The Oakland Athletics have hit a wall in the ALDS after storming back to take the AL West title on the last day of the regular season. In order to avoid a sweep at the hands of the Detroit Tigers, the A's must make adjustments in Game 3.
Both games have been low-scoring, scrappy contests. Detroit won on Sunday on a walk-off sacrifice fly by Don Kelly, after all.
Oakland-Almeda County Coliseum crowds should provide some positive energy for a club that looks to be in serious trouble. Here is what the A's need to do to force Game 4, and possibly shift the action back to Comerica Park for a deciding rubber matchup.
Shake up the Batting Order
The A's have struggled to conjure up much from the 4-7 slots in the series, and breakout right fielder Josh Reddick is the best chance this club has at instant offense.
Reddick led Oakland with 32 home runs and 85 RBIs on the season, but is in the midst of a prolonged slump. He isn't the most disciplined hitter, as evidenced by his 151 strikeouts. However, a different dynamic in the lineup might key some opportunities for him to snap out of his funk.
The solution that would make the most sense involves shortstop Stephen Drew, who was acquired in a trade with Arizona and has had an inconsistent bat all year.
Promoting Reddick to cleanup duties would put him in an ideal situation to drive in multiple runs with the long ball as he did on Sunday's dinger. Yoenis Cespedes is the Oakland's best bet to get on base, and first baseman Brian Moss has been on a tear lately.
Perhaps that would enhance the odds of the A's to continue a small trend that has developed in the ALDS, which happens to be their next key to victory on Tuesday.
Continue Getting on the Board First
Can the A's recover from a 0-2 deficit to beat the Tigers in the ALDS?
One positive to take from the first two ballgames is that Bob Melvin's team has drawn first blood on each occasion. The problem is, the Tigers have responded with a run of their own in the same inning.
The tone has to change for this extraordinarily young team, and shutting down Detroit to start at home could spark some momentum. With southpaw Brett Anderson on the hill, the A's should once again get a stellar starting pitching performance in the pitcher's first start since September 19.
Anibal Sanchez is the Tigers' Game 3 probable pitcher, and he was tagged the last time he faced Oakland, giving up six runs in under six innings, according to CBSSports.com's Dayn Perry.
Jumping on him early once again will be key for the A's to avert ending the season with a thud.
Give Grant Balfour a Chance to Slam the Door
The Aussie closer took the most recent loss, but a crucial error by center fielder Coco Crisp was the beginning of the end for the A's in the seventh inning of Game 2. Reddick jacked a solo shot in the top half of the eighth to respond, but Ryan Cook failed to hold the lead.
Giving up a sac fly to end the game isn't exactly getting lit up, and Balfour has been a stellar finisher this season season.
Balfour converted 24 of 26 save opportunities when he took over the closer position, and ESPN's Tim Kurkjian pointed to a particularly dominant statistic the 34-year-old registered along the way:
[Balfour] ended the season by joining Eric Gagne in 2003 as the only pitchers in history to pitch at least one inning, and not allow a baserunner, in five straight team games.
Clearly, the Oakland dealer can get it done when it matters most. He just needs to be put in a more ideal position to do so than he was on Sunday.
Otherwise, the Moneyball Cinderella storyline that is the 2012 Oakland Athletics will abruptly come to a close.