OAKLAND -- Too early for the fun to end. Way too early.
So the A's wouldn't let it happen.
Too soon for the A's to be sealed back in the envelope and be done for the season, after arriving last summer on the Bay Area's sporting doorstep like an unexpected Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes prize.
So the envelope is still wide open. And we're going to see more baseball. With maybe an even bigger prize at the end of it all.
Too perfect, the way it all unfolded Wednesday night. Too exquisite, almost, when you consider how many times the A's won games during the regular season in their last-at bat. Fourteen, to be exact.
And now, in the postseason, one walk-off. A doozy. In a game where a loss would have meant elimination, the A's came back from a 3-1 deficit in the bottom of the ninth inning to score a 4-3 victory over the Detroit Tigers and tie up their playoff series. As a result, the two teams will play the decisive fifth game Thursday at 6:37 p.m.
"I don't think we should change anything," said Coco Crisp, the A's center fielder, looking ahead. "Just keep it loose, have a lot of fun and give it 100 percent. Whatever the results are, we can live with ourselves because we give it 100 percent."
That's not what Crisp was thinking, however, when he entered the dugout after the top of the ninth inning with the A's trailing by two runs. He was thinking this: Maybe I'll be the guy.
Which was interesting. Because at that point, almost nobody expected Crisp to be the guy. He was the sixth scheduled batter in the inning against Detroit reliever Jose Valverde. A lot would have to happen for Crisp to be the guy.
"But that's how everybody on our team is taught to think," Crisp said. "That's our mentality. No matter what the situation is, everyone believes they might be the guy."
Initially, though, Crisp was just sitting there in the dugout, watching intently. Grant Balfour, the A's pitcher known for his fiery personality, was barking out encouragement to anyone within earshot, reminding them that coming back to win games is "what we do!"
So up came Josh Reddick, who had been struggling mightily at the plate but managed to steer a single through the right side of the infield. And then up came Josh Donaldson, pounding a double off the left field wall.
Crisp picked up his bat. No runs had scored yet. But he could almost see the future. Within seconds, the score was tied -- and the O.co Coliseum crowd was off the hook -- when Seth Smith unleashed a double to the right-center gap and both Joshes ran home. Tie game.
"It's what we do!" Balfour again shouted. Crisp was still three batters away. But when pinch hitter George Kottaras popped out and Cliff Pennington struck out ... guess who was in line to be the guy?
"I'm usually not as emotional, but I was emotional," Crisp said. "I had to calm myself down as I was walking to the plate. The crowd was loud, the music was playing ..."
And Crisp was stepping in against Valverde, with Smith standing on second base. The noise did a hip-hop dance on Crisp's eardrums.
"We have to keep everybody on edge," he said later with a smile, "to pull off something magical."
Crisp's magic turned out to be a single to right field, which Detroit outfielder Avisail Garcia somehow overran, allowing Smith to score easily from second base. Game over.
"You never know when the big hit's going to come for us," said Smith. "But it seems like more often than not that they come."
What a day for Bay Area baseball this was. Earlier in the day, the Giants had given the Bay Area at least one more day of baseball activity by a local corporation with an impressive defeat of the Reds in Cincinnati and extending their series to five games, also concluding today. But the A's matched the feat, playing at home before their raucous fans. Few of the 36,385 souls at the Coliseum left the premises, even as the cause looked hopeless, because they knew how quick the A's could turn bad into good.
They also knew something else:
It was too soon to have 2012 be over. Too soon to pack up and lock away all the memorable stuff from the last few months, from the series of walk-off victories that resulted in pies being smushed into faces, to the frightening skull-shattering injury to pitcher Brandon McCarthy, to the stunning sweep of the Texas Rangers to clinch the American League West championship on the final day of the regular season.
So no packing was done. And the locker remains wide open.
It won't be easy Thursday because the Tigers have one of the game's best pitchers, Justin Verlander, ready to go.
The A's, however, have a team full of guys who believe they can be the guy. Might be a mismatch.