OAKLAND, Calif. -- Oakland Athletics fans, you knew it had to be like this, right? You knew that when it was time to either kiss this baseball season goodbye or continue the Hollywood storyline, it would depend on a pitcher coming off Tommy John surgery and a regular season-ending oblique injury.
"This series is kind of like a microcosm of our season," Game 3 starter Brett Anderson said. "You've got two rookies and a guy that's been hurt 90 percent of the season. This team has handled adversity better than any team I've seen, so you wouldn't expect anything less, really."
He's right. In fact, given all the Athletics have overcome this year -- the league's lowest payroll, a season-ending injury to third baseman Scott Sizemore in spring training, a life-threatening line drive off ace Brandon McCarthy, the positive PED test for Bartolo Colon, an all-rookie starting rotation to finish the season -- starting a non-rookie pitcher on 19 days of rest in a win-or-go-home game must be considered a positive.
It certainly beats watching the entire postseason from the couch as the Athletics had done each fall since the Detroit Tigers swept them in the 2006 American League Championship Series.
Anderson underwent Tommy John surgery on his left elbow in June 2011 and didn't return to the mound until late this August. He pitched six games (35 innings), going 4-2 with a 2.57 ERA before straining an oblique muscle Sept.19. That's the sort of nagging injury that often can limit a player for a month or more, but Anderson says he's ready to go.
"I'm good," he said. "It wasn't ideal getting hurt again. But I feel good and it's the postseason -- who knows when we're going to get back here. You'd like to say you're going to get back here again. But you have to put the nicks and nacks away and get ready to play, because everybody has them at this point."
Anderson said his velocity is still returning bit by bit, but that he still is a pitcher who relies on his curveball and getting ground balls. He was throwing 100 pitches a game before the oblique injury but said how many he can throw Tuesday depends on how the game goes. He is definitely well-rested.
"We'll play it by ear," Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. "I don't think we're going to do anything too strict as far as his pitch counts go. We're just going to see every inning how he feels and monitor that. Adrenaline kicks in and sometimes you have more in the tank than you normally would after a little bit of time off."
The Athletics allowed eight runs while losing the first two games in Detroit, but only one of the Tigers' runs scored on a base hit. The question is whether the Tigers were fortunate to score that many runs on so few hits, or whether they're really going to be a handful if their hitters get going. The other question is whether Oakland's young, rookie-heavy team can overcome the 0-2 hole and the pressure that comes with it.
"Obviously, we got here so they've responded pretty well to pressure," Oakland's Brandon Inge said. "For a young group of guys, especially a young pitching staff, it doesn't seem like pressure even gets to them. That's why we're here right now."
Oakland was in a somewhat similar situation last week when it had to sweep the Rangers at home to win the division and avoid the one-game wild-card playoff. The A's did so then and they hope to do it again against the Tigers.
"I like the way that we've been playing," Anderson said. "We're down 0-2. We won three games in a row against the Rangers, and I don't see why we can't do it again."