DETROIT -- There was no shame in the A's 3-1 loss here Saturday night. No one expected the Athletics to even be in uniform at this point anyway, let alone be taking the field on a frosty 49-degree night against the Detroit Tigers in the American League Division Series.
So it's all a bonus from this point. Saturday, it was also a bit of an emotional punch, when A's relief pitcher Pat Neshek came out of the bullpen just three days after the death of his 23-hour old son -- and managed to retire two Detroit batters in the seventh inning before lovingly touching the memorial patch on his uniform that the team is wearing to honor Neshek's loss.
Whew. Quite an evening. It would be nice if the A's at least earned a split of their two games here at Comerica Park. But as crazy a season as the A's have unfurled, it wouldn't be a shock to see them go down 0-2 and then sweep three straight games back in Oakland to take the best-of-five series.
Nevertheless, the A's came close to getting a "W" on Saturday. Two hours before the game, A's manager Bob Melvin more or less revealed the game plan against Detroit starting pitcher Justin Verlander.
"There's more than one way to beat a good starter," Melvin said. "You don't always have to knock them around."
Translation: If the A's could make Verlander work hard and throw lots of pitches in the early innings, they might solve and beat him -- or at least send him to the showers early and feast on the Detroit bullpen. Verlander is one of this era's great pitchers, won 17 games this season and started the All-Star Game for the American League. But his arm isn't made of tungsten steel. He can grow tired. He's just like any other human.
Or maybe it is. And maybe he can't. And maybe he isn't.
The A's did indeed make Verlander labor extensively. But it didn't matter. When he struck out A's batter Derek Norris in the seventh inning, Verlander did so with his 113th pitch of the night -- and kept going. He ended his evening two batters later, after 121 pitches, including a 98 mph fastball or three. Or eight.
Verlander's pitching line also included 11 strikeouts, not an upset against the whiff-heavy Athletics, although their body language indicated they were not happy with the generous strike zone provided to him by plate umpire Jim Reynolds. Maybe that's an extra benefit earned by veteran excellence.
At any rate, when you add it all up, how are you going to beat that package? You aren't. And so the A's must try again Sunday. Saturday was the team's first postseason experience in 1,819 days. It won't quickly be forgotten, for many reasons.