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A’s Looking to Defy History against Tigers in ALDS

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OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 03: The Oakland Athletics celebrate after they beat the Texas Rangers to win the American League West Division Title at O.co Coliseum on October 3, 2012 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

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By Sam McPherson

The wait is over, and the many experts have weighed in with predictions after a four-day break since the end of the regular season.

And now, finally, tonight the Oakland Athletics and the Detroit Tigers will renew their postseason rivalry at the O.co Coliseum in the 2013 American League Division Series.

The A’s haven’t won a World Series since 1989, and their last two trips to the postseason have ended against the Tigers. Both times Detroit has gone on to the World Series instead of Oakland. Of course, things could be different this year, and Game 1 always goes a long way toward determining the outcome of a postseason baseball series.

Last season, Major League Baseball oddly structured the Division Series with the higher-seeded team opening on the road, and the A’s dropped their first two games in Detroit before returning to Oakland to force — and lose — Game 5. It was the fifth time in six postseason trips in the Billy Beane era the A’s lost a Game Five of the ALDS. The one time Oakland won its Division Series matchup (2006), it was Detroit that eliminated the A’s in the American League Championship Series. And strangely, Oakland has had trouble winning games on its home field in the postseason recently. The stadium will be loud and raucous tonight as the maximum capacity has been increased for the postseason with the removal of the third-deck tarps.

In fact, the A’s have had home-field advantage in its last four postseason series defeats: the 2002 ALDS against the Minnesota Twins, the 2003 ALDS versus the Boston Red Sox, the 2006 ALCS against Detroit and the 2012 ALDS versus the Tigers.

Oakland definitely needs to take advantage of its home-field edge in 2013… for once.

Bartolo Colon (18-6, 2.65 ERA this season) takes the mound for the A’s tonight against Tigers star Max Scherzer (21-3, 2.90). Oakland finished three games ahead of Detroit in the AL standings while posting a slightly better team ERA (3.56 to 3.61), but the Tigers scored 29 more runs than the A’s did in 2013.

All in all, it’s a pretty even battle between two good teams. Oakland won the season series between the two squads in 2013, thanks to three wins in four games at Comerica Park in late August. But the Tigers took two of three against the A’s in Oakland way back in mid-April.

Last year, this ALDS matchup featured close games and a dominant effort from Detroit ace Justin Verlander. The A’s gave away Game 2 in Detroit, and the Tigers handed Game 4 to Oakland in the Coliseum.

Most people expect this series to go five games again, and Game 5 would once again be in Oakland if it comes to that.

But as noted, the A’s need to take advantage of their home-field advantage for once. However, it doesn’t mean much in baseball; both World Series teams last season — Detroit and San Francisco — didn’t have the home edge in their respective LCS matchups, but obviously they advanced nonetheless.

And again, Oakland has lost four Game 5’s at home in the ALDS since 2000.

However, with the extra 13,000 seats opened up at the Coliseum for this postseason, the A’s can expect a lot more support for their efforts in 2013 than they did last October.

As everyone knows, Oakland is one of the “underdog” organizations in baseball, along with Tampa Bay — another low-payroll team playing in the ALDS this season, against the Red Sox. While Detroit’s payroll is pushing $150 million this year, the A’s roster barely makes $60 million total.

So while the Tigers are spending the fifth-most in the majors on their team, Oakland spends the fourth-least amount on theirs.

No small-payroll team has made the World Series since Tampa Bay in 2008, and no small-payroll team has won the World Series since 2003, when the Florida Marlins — with a rookie third baseman named Miguel Cabrera, now the Tigers all-world Triple Crown superstar — pulled it off.

For the A’s, it’s always a David-versus-Goliath match-up in the 21st century as they try to win their 10th World Series title in franchise history, but Oakland has a lot of stones it can thrown at these Tigers now.

Game 1 Oakland A’s vs. Detroit Tigers airs Friday, Oct. 4 at 6:37 p.m. PST.

Visit the MLB Playoffs section.

Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering all things Oakland A’s. His work can be found on Examiner.com.

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