It’s safe to say the Athletics will not lament the fact that they will not make another visit to Detroit or Comerica Park in 2012, it has not been kind to them recently. What became the site of a crushing loss in 2006 when Magglio Ordonez took Huston Street deep to send the Tigers to the World Series has become something of a house of horrors for the A’s now. Game 1 they were shut down by Justin Verlander, even though he didn’t seem to be at his absolute best. Game 2 they had opportunity after opportunity to take this game, but refused to let that happen. So they find themselves in a 2-0 hole. But things could certainly be worse (How do you think the San Francisco Giants are feeling right about now).
The twisted version of home field advantage has been belabored enough that I won’t say anything about it beyond this sentence. The one bright side of the current situation is the fact that while the A’s do have to beat the Tigers 3 straight games, they’ll all be in the friendly confines of the O.co Coliseum in all of our favorite East Bay city. The prospect of overcoming a 2 game deficit in this situation is not entirely alien to the Oakland Athletics. Ofcourse they were the ones in the position to close out their opponent with 3 chances to do so, and failed.
So I’ll take us on a little trip down memory lane, first back to the 2001 season. To many A’s fans with their finger on the pulse of A’s history will immediately recall that this was the infamous “Slide, Jeremy, Slide” series. Behind Mark Mulder and Tim Hudson the A’s were able to take games 1 and 2 from the New York Yankees on their own turf as the series shifted back to Oakland so the A’s could snuff out the Yankees. It didn’t quite work that way though. It was in the 7th inning of game 3 that the nightmarish lack of fundamentals that haunts me to this day struck. I firmly believe if Jeremy Giambi had slid, the A’s would’ve won that game and so forth and probably gone on to win the World Series, they were that good. They lost that game 1-0. Game 4 wasn’t pretty, Cory Lidle got knocked around and the Yankees cruised to a 9-2 victory. Game 5 took place back in the Bronx, neither starter (Mulder and Roger Clemens) escaped the 5th inning. But the A’s couldn’t muster a comeback and lost 5-3 to end their season. It was heartbreaking to say the least.
In 2003 the A’s squared off against the Boston Red Sox, looking to finally overcome their ALDS demons and move on to the ALCS. This was an exciting series to say the least. Game 1 in Oakland saw the A’s mount a dramatic comeback in the bottom of the 9th inning against Byung-Hyun Kim to tie the game and send it to extras. It was in the 12th that with the bases loaded Ramon Hernandez shocked everyone with a drag bunt to score the winning run. The A’s hung 5 runs on Tim Wakefield in game 2, and cruised to a 5-1 win behind Barry Zito. As the series shifted to Boston, things once again got a little dicey for the A’s. In game 3 came the walk off 2 run home run by Trot Nixon in the 11th inning against Rich Harden, a major gut punch to the A’s. Game 4 saw the Red Sox take a 5-4 lead in the bottom of the 8th inning against Keith Foulke, who ofcourse would record the out to break their curse a year later. Game 5 has two lasting images in my mind, one of Manny Ramirez pointing to the Red Sox dugout as his 3 run homer off Barry Zito hurtled toward the LF bleachers, and Derek Lowe gesturing towards the A’s dugout after striking out Terrence Long looking in the bottom of the 9th to seal the victory for Boston.
Both of these series were painful for A’s fans, but at this moment should serve as proof that comebacks like what the 2012 A’s need to complete are possible. The A’s find themselves in a less dire situation than the Yankees and Red Sox were because the A’s will have all 3 possible games at home, a byproduct of this year’s unusual Division Series schedule. What if the A’s walk off on the Tigers Tuesday night like the Red Sox did in 2003? Would that put the momentum squarely in their corner? There’s something to be said for the pressure that sits on the shoulders of the team trying to close their opponent out, a rabid Coliseum will only ramp up that pressure. Realistically the A’s have to win Tuesday and Wednesday, then Thursday becomes an entirely different animal. Crazy things have happened with the A’s this year, now is not the time to think this team has run out of surprises.