OAKLAND It makes sense in a serendipitous sort of way, left-hander Brett Anderson said, that he's taking the mound for the A's today in Game 3 of the American League Division Series.
Down 2-0 to the Detroit Tigers and needing to win if they want to keep adding pages to their storybook season, the A's are turning to a starter who hasn't pitched since straining an abdominal muscle on Sept. 19 and has made just six starts this season after coming back in mid-August from Tommy John surgery.
Granted, when Anderson returned from injury the first time this year, he allowed two earned runs in his first four starts and won all of them. It's one of the many unlikely layers to an A's team that, like Anderson himself, was working its way back to on-field relevance when the season began.
"It's going to be fun. Don't really know what to expect," Anderson said Monday. "This series is kind of a little microcosm of our season you've got two rookies (starting the first two games) and a guy that's been hurt 90 percent of the season. But this team has handled adversity better than any team I've seen. So I wouldn't expect anything less, really."
Anderson said he feels strong and the time he missed after straining the abdominal muscle in the third inning of his Sept. 19 start in Detroit may have been "kind of a Catch-22." It kept him from pitching down the stretch, as the A's used an all-rookie rotation while running to the A.L. West crown, but it means his arm is fresh.
"It wasn't ideal getting hurt again, but I feel good," Anderson said. "And it's postseason. You like to say we're going to get back here every year, but it's one of those times you've got to put your little nicks and knacks away and get ready to play."
Despite the pitcher's three-week layoff, manager Bob Melvin said he doesn't plan to impose a strict pitch count on Anderson, who reached 100 pitches in his last two full starts. Instead, Melvin said, "We're just going to see every inning how he feels and kind of monitor that."
Anderson went 4-2 with a 2.57 ERA this season. In his first outing back from Tommy John rehab, he allowed one run and four hits over seven innings to beat the Minnesota Twins. Entering a game of today's magnitude, Anderson acknowledged he can "take comfort in that a little bit" as did some of his teammates.
"He says he feels good, and if he feels good and if he comes back and throws how he's capable of, then he's the guy to have out there," closer Grant Balfour said.
While the A's rookie starters have been impressive, outfielder Brandon Moss said, "As far as stuff goes, I don't know if anybody matches Brett's stuff.
"He's got that really good sinker, that hard heater and that curveball, and when he's on he's on. I wouldn't expect anything less from him (today) . I know we'll be pumped up to play behind him."
The A's could use an edge, since they must win three games in a row something only seven teams have done in a best-of-five postseason series after falling into a 2-0 deficit in Detroit.
It's similar to the final week of the season.
Returning home from a grueling trip during which they went 4-6 and lost a game in New York after leading by four runs in the 13th inning, the A's swept a six-game homestand, including the final three against Texas to become the first team to win its division after being five games out of first place with fewer than 10 to play.
"I know 25-plus guys and a manager (for whom) panic doesn't exist, and that's in here," outfielder Jonny Gomes said. "There hasn't been a panic button anywhere around here."