DETROIT — The Oakland Athletics know all the clichés.
Their backs are against the wall. There’s no tomorrow. It’s do or die … win or go home … one and done.
As a matter of fact, they know them so well that they feel right at home.
After losing Game 2 of their American League Division Series with the Detroit Tigers 5-4 on Sunday, the Athletics need to win three straight games at home to avoid elimination — the exact thing they did earlier this week to win the AL West.
“We’re not going to pack it in just because Detroit is up 2-0,” second baseman Cliff Pennington said. “We’re going to keep fighting until this is over. That’s how we got here in the first place, and we’re not about to stop now.”
The odds are firmly against Oakland, but that’s nothing new. On July 1, they trailed the Rangers by 13 games and were computed to have a 1.1 percent chance of winning the division. On Sept. 30, still three games behind with only two to play, the odds remained quite low, at about 16 percent.
Even after the A’s beat Texas in the first two games of the series, moving into a tie for first, their quest still appeared doomed. They fell behind 5-1 in the last game of the season before rallying for a 12-5 victory and an improbable trip to Detroit.
“Yes, our backs are against the wall, but it is no different than what we were facing against Texas,” reliever Sean Doolittle said. “We did it then, so there is no reason to believe that we can’t do it again. Obviously, it is going to be tough because Detroit’s got a great team.
“But we’re going to be back in our stadium, with our crowd. We turn the page tomorrow and then we go try to do it again.”
Of course, in a normal season, Oakland wouldn’t have been in this position. They would have won the division title at home and then hung out in the Bay Area, waiting for the Tigers to fly in.
Instead, because of Major League Baseball having to squeeze in the new wild-card round, Oakland had to get on a plane to Detroit. Now, even with home-field advantage, they’re one game away from elimination before even setting foot in Oakland Coliseum, where they’ll play Game 3 on Tuesday.
That probably isn’t fair, but the A’s weren’t going to use it as an excuse.
“We have no control over the format of the series — we just know that we have to win three games,” center fielder Coco Crisp said. “We started out needing to win three of five. Now we have to win three of three, and we’ve got all three at home. It’s that simple.”
One thing that Oakland will need to do at home is find a way to hang on to momentum for more than a few pitches. In the first two games of the series, the Athletics have scored in four innings. All four times, the Tigers have come back to score in the bottom of the inning.
“Against a team like Detroit, you almost have to expect that they are always going to land a counter-punch,” Doolittle said. “They’ve done it to us every time, so the momentum keeps going back and forth. We haven’t been able to keep it for any length of time.
“We need to find a way to do that. We were ahead in the seventh and ahead in the eighth, and with our bullpen, you’d expect that to be a win.”
It wasn’t a win, which means the Athletics are going to need to find another big dose of October magic to get to the AL Championship Series.
“This is the same situation we’ve faced all season,” Pennington said. “We have to win.