DETROIT – While reporters bounced around the visiting clubhouse at Comerica Park on Monday afternoon, A's right-hander Dan Straily sat quietly in front of his locker in a plaid shirt, hunched over his cell phone.
The A's had just finished a 6-3 win over the Detroit Tigers in Game 3 of the American League Division Series, meaning Straily, a 24-year-old rookie, will take the mound today in Game 4 with a chance to pitch the A's into the American League Championship Series. The A's lead the best-of-five ALDS 2-1.
"I mean, it's no different," Straily said when asked if he had considered the possibility. "I'm not going to approach it any differently. Just preparing for a game."
Straily had a similarly laconic answer when asked earlier what he learned watching fellow starters Bartolo Colon and Sonny Gray hold the Tigers scoreless for 17 consecutive innings in Games 1 and 2. The A's have allowed runs in just two of 27 innings in the series, three-run innings in Games 1 and 3.
"Good things happen when you keep the ball down," Straily said. "It shows that our game plan, our approach is working, if we just stick to that."
Straily faced the Tigers once this season. On Aug. 28, he allowed one run and eight hits in six innings in a 14-4 victory. This will be Straily's postseason debut, though he said he feels he pitched in a "playoff-type atmosphere" during a September start in Texas with the A's clinging to the A.L. West lead.
Straily will be the fifth rookie pitcher in the last two years to start a playoff game for the A's, following Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone and A.J. Griffin in last year's ALDS and Gray in this year's Game 2. Left fielder Seth Smith said he expects Straily, who was 10-8 with a 3.96 ERA in the regular season, to embrace the circumstances.
"More times than not guys with the level of talent that we have in this clubhouse and across baseball rise to the occasion in the postseason," Smith said. "The stage makes them even better."
Straily will oppose 6-foot-8 Tigers right-hander Doug Fister, a Merced native.
Fister said when he attended games at O.co Coliseum and Candlestick Park, he'd "always tell my folks that I wanted to play there."
"Even driving by," Fister said. "It was, 'Hey, someday that would be cool to be able to play in.' That was always the goal."
Melvin said Griffin (right elbow tendinitis) has played catch and "feels pretty good" but hasn't thrown off a mound. If the A's advance to the ALCS, Melvin said Griffin would have to throw at least one full "strenuous" bullpen session without pain to have a chance of rejoining the rotation.
Third baseman Josh Donaldson is the A's nominee for the Hank Aaron Award, given to each league's top offensive performer as voted by fans and a panel of former players, including Aaron. Donaldson hit .301 with 24 home runs and 93 RBIs in the regular season. The winner will be announced during the World Series.
– Matt Kawahara