The Oakland Athletics are one win away from clinching the 2013 American League Division Series against the Detroit Tigers and will have to go through Tigers starting pitcher Doug Fister if they want to do so in Game 4, which will start at 5:07 p.m. ET on October 8.
Pressure all on punchless Tigers after Game 3 ALDS loss to A's: http://t.co/Jdk42a26F2— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) October 8, 2013
Fister finished the regular season with a 14-9 record and a 3.67 ERA.
Fister will have to contend with an Athletics team that has turned up the heat as of late. After scoring a combined three runs in their first two games of the series, Oakland eventually scored six against Tigers pitcher Anibal Sanchez en route to their series lead.
Now, Detroit has to count on Fister to keep the team in the series and avoid elimination.
The A's are wondering which Fister they will face in Game 4. Will it be the pitcher who threw seven innings of two-run ball against Oakland in Game 2 of last year's ALDS and owns a 1.71 ERA over five career postseason starts?
Or will Fister emulate the start he had against the A's back on August 28 when Oakland put up 13 hits and seven earned runs over five innings? In that game, Oakland was able to find Fister's weaknesses and went on to win 14-4.
It is safe to assume the A's are hoping for the latter.
Fister owns a career 3.17 ERA against Oakland over 12 starts. He has faced only the Cleveland Indians and Kansas City Royals more. Yet the A's roughed him up during his lone start against Oakland in 2013, and that is a good sign for a team that has all the momentum in their dugout.
Which A's bats will make the difference? Well, Coco Crisp owns a .368 batting average against Fister, and there is the saying, "How Coco goes, so do the A's."
What is the outcome of Game 4?
If Crisp can set the tone for Oakland's lineup, the A's should be able to continue their offensive surge, which came to life in Game 3. Crisp reaching base would be a great start to giving the rest of the lineup a chance to do some damage.
With the Tigers' bats mostly silent in the series thus far, Oakland hopes to put up just a few runs early against Fister and counter with starter Dan Straily, who is 4-1 with a 2.00 ERA over his last six starts.
If Oakland can muster the same success it enjoyed against pitchers like Sanchez in Game 3, there should be little reason to assume the A's will not clinch the series in Game 4.
The only thing standing in their way is Fister.
All statistics and records courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise stated.
Peter Panacy is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him @PeterMcShots on Twitter.