Youthful A's hope change of scenery does trick
OAKLAND -- Yes, friends, the Oakland Coliseum has seen better days. After 45 seasons, it's showing its age in a couple of places.
OK, we're sugarcoating the whole thing. It's the last of the multipurpose stadiums, and its time has passed, and then some. The A's have their sights set on new digs in San Jose.
But how about one more before we hit the road? The A's are hoping there's still some magic in the park's concrete-and-steel bones as the best-of-five American League Division Series they trail, 0-2, shifts to the Coliseum for the finish.
All 35,067 seats have been sold for Tuesday's Game 3 against the Tigers, and that's just one of the good omens at play. The A's were 50-31 at home this season. Only the Yankees won more home games, and for all the Coliseum's drawbacks -- and the list is long -- there are days when it's still special.
"I've often said if there's 10,000 or 15,000 in here, it sounds like it's 30," manager Bob Melvin said. "And when this place is packed, it's about as loud as it gets. So it has an effect on us. We appreciate it."
The A's were reminded of that last week, when a packed house showed up for the final game of the regular season. With the place rocking, the A's fed off the energy to finish a three-game sweep of the Rangers.
There's plenty of history here. The A's have won six pennants and made 16 playoff appearances since 1968. They twice won the deciding game of the World Series here.
This is where Reggie Jackson and Joe Rudi played. It's where Dave Stewart and Carney Lansford played, too. Now there's a new generation of A's hoping to make some more history.
They're hoping that a change in environment -- and some quality innings from left-hander Brett Anderson -- will help them turn this series around.
Resilience has been one of the A's strengths this season, and maybe that's not surprising for a roster that includes 12 rookies. In a Game 1 loss to the Tigers, the A's became just the second Major League team in history to have four rookies in the starting lineup.
Seven A's are 25 or under, and the average age of the roster is a mere 28. That youth helped the A's sail over the grind of a long season, and even after two losses in Detroit, they're ready to saddle up again.
"We're an underdog team, and to me, I like that," veteran reliever Grant Balfour said. "If somebody tells me I can't do something, I'm going to go out and do it. At least I'm going to try. Sometimes it works out, and sometimes it doesn't."
Outfielder Jonny Gomes, one of the old men of the clubhouse at 31, said that the young guys don't know enough to be nervous.
"We've never had a lose-or-go-home situation," Gomes said. "To be completely honest, I don't think that's going to change anything. I really don't. With that being said, I think that's a tribute to how young we are. These guys and our manager don't really have panic in their vocabulary. Me, as the veteran, I've probably panicked the most."
The A's batted just .203 during the two losses in Detroit and struck out 23 times. Some of those problems are a tribute to the Tigers' Game 1 starter, Justin Verlander, who allowed one run and struck out 11 in a dominant seven-inning performance.
"This team has done an unbelievable job of, after a loss or a win, leaving these double doors and then cleaning the slate," Gomes said. "We really did break down a 162-game season into individual games. I think that that's why we got where we are today."
Anderson, who missed most of the season recovering from Tommy John surgery, will make his first start in 19 days after pulling an oblique muscle against the Tigers.
He's the former ace of the staff, and in four starts before the injury, was pitching as well as ever, going 4-1 with a 1.93 ERA.
Sometimes we overthink this stuff. If Anderson goes out and takes control of the game, the A's probably will win. In a season in which they've accomplished so much and surprised so many, they're confident there's still more to come.
"Our mantra has been, 'Let's play for the day, let's not worry about tomorrow,'" Melvin said.
Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.