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Verlander fans 11 A's in Game 1 win

OAKLAND -- Ho hum. Just another Game 5 in the American League Division Series, right?

Just another win-or-go-home-for-the-winter, one-game playoff to advance to the AL Championship Series. Just another potential nail-biter between the gritty Detroit Tigers and the never-say-die Oakland A's after a stunning Game 4 set it all up.

First, a quick rewind: The A's, who lost Games 1 and 2 in Detroit and won Game 3 in Oakland, trailed Wednesday, 3-1, heading into the bottom of the ninth inning at a quieting Oakland Coliseum. Detroit closer Jose Valverde took the mound, and after hits by Josh Reddick, Josh Donaldson, Seth Smith and Coco Crisp, the almost-impossible had happened. The A's had won, 4-3, their 15th walk-off victory of 2012, and Game 5 was set.

It was quick. It was decisive. It was, well, kind of ridiculous. But, as Detroit manager Jim Leyland said, it was something you can only see in America's pastime.

"Yeah, well, it's baseball," Leyland said. "I mean, that's why this is the greatest game of all. It looked like we were going to get it. We didn't do it. We didn't quite get the 27 outs. That's part of the game."

For the A's, it was nothing new. They've been winning in unlikely fashion all year, and Wednesday was just the latest example, with Crisp's single being the outfielder's fourth walk-off hit of 2012.

"Our mentality as a ballclub is just go out there and play as hard as you can," Crisp said. "And we don't really worry about the results. We have a great mentality of separating each game, win or loss. ... But when you go out there and give it your all, more times than not, good results will happen."

Good things happened for the A's on Tuesday and Wednesday and now they'll get a chance to come up big again Thursday and advance to their first ALCS in six years. The Tigers have a chance to reach their second straight ALCS and make up for a loss to Texas in 2011 that prevented them from getting to the World Series.

The pitching matchup will be a rematch of Game 1, when Detroit ace Justin Verlander, the 2011 AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner and a Cy Young contender this year, will try to replicate the effort that saw him beat the A's, 3-1, behind seven innings of one-run, 11-strikeout ball. The A's probably wouldn't mind getting a similar start to the one they received from rookie right-hander Jarrod Parker, who gave up three runs (two earned) in 6 1/3 innings.

And those aren't the only intriguing storylines on tap for the finale.

Oakland's home run leader, Reddick, was 1-for-13 going into his leadoff at-bat in Wednesday's ninth, but he singled to start the rally. He will be looking to make up for a dismal outing against Verlander in Game 1.

And on Detroit's side, the Tigers saw their first long ball from slugger Prince Fielder on Wednesday night, but they still haven't gotten a home run from the AL Triple Crown winner and MVP contender Miguel Cabrera, who went 1-for-4 with a bloop single in Game 4, although he's batting .313 for the series.

What can we expect? It's hard to say in a series that continues to defy expectations.

But considering that each game has been decided by two runs or fewer, it wouldn't be a shock to find it coming down to the last inning or the last at-bat. And one thing that can be counted on is all-out efforts from clubs that would like nothing better than advancing to the next round of an already-scintillating postseason.

"We're going to go out and just give it 100 percent," Crisp said. "I think that's been our mentality the whole year.

"I don't think we should change anything."

Tigers: Verlander ready
The way Verlander carved up the A's in Game 1, it would make sense that the veteran right-hander would be confident heading into an elimination game. Then again, losing Game 4 the way the Tigers did could be a bit discouraging and could potentially lead a pitcher to think that he has to shoulder the load of the entire team.

That's why Verlander said after Game 4 that he's making sure to not treat it as anything other than a regular start.

"No, you try to take it one day at a time," Verlander said. "Obviously that was a tough one, but it's not the first time this year we lost like that, but on a bigger stage. We've been resilient all year, and tomorrow is a new day."

• Fielder is 13-for-88 (.191) in his career in the postseason. However, nine of the 13 hits have gone for extra bases (four doubles, five homers).

• Cabrera singled in the sixth inning of Wednesday's game and has now reached base safely in each of his 15 postseason games with the Tigers. That is the third-longest streak in Detroit history behind Hank Greenberg (18) and Charlie Gehringer (16).

A's: Parker gets another shot
Rookie starters are the norm for this A's team, and while Parker might be in his first full season in the Major Leagues, he doesn't seem like a rookie anymore. His manager, Bob Melvin, said he expects Parker to use what he learned from his first postseason outing when he gets another crack at Verlander and the Tigers on Thursday.

"I think any time you get experience ... now all of a sudden the next time out you know what to expect and you know you can handle it," Melvin said. "His season as a whole, you've seen him get better and better and better and handle some things."

• Reddick has eight strikeouts in the ALDS, which is an Oakland record for a single postseason series. The previous record of seven was accomplished 11 times.

• Outfielder Yoenis Cespedes has hit safely in all four games of the ALDS in his MLB postseason debut. He's hitting .333 (5-for-15) with one run, two RBIs, two walks, two strikeouts and two stolen bases.

Worth noting
• Wednesday marked the first time in the series that Detroit did not register a quality start, although Max Scherzer was effective, going 5 1/3 innings and giving up one unearned run while striking out eight.

• Crisp now has a seven-game postseason hitting streak dating back to the 2008 ALCS and is 10-for-30 (.333) in that span.

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