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White-hot A's ready for Tigers' best shot in ALDS

White-hot A's ready for Tigers' best shot in ALDS

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White-hot A's ready for Tigers' best shot in ALDS
OAKLAND -- Against all odds, the A's claimed their first division title in six years on Wednesday, their status as the ruthless underdogs seemingly making them the team to beat moving forward in the postseason.

"I don't think anybody would want to play us," outfielder Josh Reddick said. "I don't think we're going to be underestimated as much as we have all year now, that's for sure."

It will be the Tigers who will have the first shot at halting baseball's hottest team, which ended the regular season with six straight victories. Fresh off a champagne celebration Wednesday, the A's will travel to Detroit on Thursday afternoon to prepare for the best-of-five series that begins Saturday at 3:07 p.m. PT.

Game 2 is to follow on Sunday, with the third game set for Tuesday at the Coliseum in Oakland. Should a fourth and/or fifth game be necessary, both would take place in Oakland, with games scheduled for Oct. 9-11.

"It's going to be a tough matchup," manager Bob Melvin said. "They played very well against us during the season. They have a very powerful lineup that can certainly score some runs. They also have great starting pitching. We will have our work cut out for us."

The A's played the Tigers to a 3-4 record this season, most recently going 1-2 in Detroit in mid-September, being outscored 18-4 in the first two games, both losses, before beating them, 12-4, in the finale.

In that series, the A's found a foe in AL Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera, who tackled them with five hits in 11 at-bats, including three home runs. Overall, the Tigers' third baseman is batting .483 against the A's this season, his best mark vs. any club not named the Orioles (.500).

Detroit's AL Most Valuable Player Award candidate, backed by cleanup hitter Prince Fielder, stands to be the A's most challenging out, while right-handed ace Justin Verlander, expected to start Game 1, figures to offer the same type of test on the mound, where the pitching-rich A's hope to outperform their playoff counterparts.

Oakland has yet to announce a starter for Game 1, though there's a strong chance it's righty Jarrod Parker, who finished his regular season with a 13-8 record and 3.47 ERA. In one start against the Tigers this year, the rookie allowed two runs with four walks and five strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings. Other potential options are lefty Brett Anderson -- should the A's decide to start him less than three weeks after he suffered a right oblique strain in Detroit -- or southpaw Tommy Milone.

On the offensive side, the A's compiled a .252 average with seven home runs against Detroit's staff in the regular season. Keep an eye out for Seth Smith, who hit .417 with two home runs against the Tigers this year, and Reddick, whose .357 average vs. Detroit also included two home runs.

This is a homer-happy A's team, which offset a poor .238 season average. Oakland belted 194 home runs, including a Major League-best 112 after the All-Star break. That's 31 more than Detroit tallied, even with Cabrera's 44.

The Tigers, who finished the season with seven fewer wins than the A's at 87-74, naturally fared well in their home ballpark, going 50-31 at Comerica Park. Yet the A's were equally successful on the road, going an AL-best 44-37 outside the confines of the Coliseum.

The A's feel they have passed their biggest test, with Jonny Gomes insisting, "All you gotta do is get in. You don't have to be the best team. You gotta be the hottest."

"I think this team is going to be just fine in the playoffs," reliever Sean Doolittle said. "We've played so many close games, we played such a tough schedule recently, so I think all that really bodes well for us moving forward."

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Major Lee-ague, and follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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