DETROIT -- We are going to learn the truth about these 2013 A's over the next few days. We are going to learn if they learned.

If it feels like we have been here before ... it's because we have been here before. More or less. But mostly more.

And by "here," I am not referring strictly to the Tigers' home field at sprawling Comerica Park, which occupies approximately 83 square blocks of downtown Detroit, the bankrupt city where real estate is cheaper than a broken-bat single.

Although right now, the Tigers would take a broken-bat single. They haven't scored in 17 innings.

No, when I say we have been here before, I am talking about this best-of-five playoff series between the A's and the Tigers. It feels almost like an extension of last year's best-of-five playoff series between the A's and the Tigers, won in five by Detroit.

Back in 2012, the first four matchups in the series were all close and tense. No game was decided by more than two runs. Each team owned 11 runs after four games.

"It seems like in the postseason, for whatever reason, pitching rules the day a little bit more so," said A's manager Bob Melvin here Sunday. "Runs are tougher to come by."

Apparently so, because the same thing is happening this time around. After two games, the series is tied at 1-1. Both games have been decided by one run. Each team has scored three total runs. Each team's pitching has been exemplary.


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"Two fantastic playoff games," said Tigers manager Jim Leyland. "Nip and tuck."

Nip and tuck redux, really. Now we have two more games here, the first beginning Monday at 10 a.m. Pacific time. The A's mission is to win at least one of the two and get the series back to Oakland for a decisive Game 5 -- and demonstrate that this time around, they can win it.

Last year, you will recall, the A's were blown out in Game 5 by a score of 6-0 at O.co Coliseum (because the 2012 series used a 2-3 format rather than 2-2-1). Tigers ace Justin Verlander held the Athletics to four hits and beat A's starter Jarrod Parker. Stephen Drew, then the Oakland shortstop, made an error. Relief pitcher Ryan Cook came on in the seventh inning and couldn't retire any of the three batters he faced.

That Game 5 defeat of 2012, at least in one man's opinion, was a result of the youngish A's roster finally succumbing to the grinding tension of those first four knuckle-gnawers against Detroit in the series -- as well as the last-week regular-season push to win the American League West. A letdown was inevitable. Understandable, even.

But this year? No. The youngish A's are 12 months less youngish. The A's should have learned last year that if an entire team keeps pushing and keeps an edge, it has a chance to win every game. When a team eases up and loses the edge, it can lose big.

So far, so edgy. The A's won Saturday's 1-0 thriller Game 2, despite Verlander's seven shutout innings. Monday's starter is Parker, ready to redeem his 0-2 playoff record and 4.26 ERA of last year. Parker said his 2012 postseason experience "is definitely a benefit" because he should "be able to settle in and slow things down right away -- it's not going to be so foreign."

The A's are in a very good position here. Detroit is feeling the heat, even in the cool autumn weather. Tigers fans, after seeing their team reach the World Series last year, will be satisfied with nothing less. Leyland even said Sunday that his team was "set up to fail" by the big expectations, though he believes winning the A.L. Central eased some of the weight.

However, while Leyland is not exactly panicking, he confirmed plans to insert Jhonny Peralta, a potent bat, in the Monday outfield lineup, replacing Don Kelly. The reason?

"Because we've got to try to score some runs, obviously," Leyland said.

You've got to love the man's directness.

Melvin is playing it more cool, relying on his usual platoons-and-pitching strategy. He hasn't needed to make many moves so far. But he made one brilliant non-move on Saturday. In the bottom of the ninth inning with the bases loaded and the game scoreless, Melvin permitted catcher Stephen Vogt to bat against reliever Rick Porcello. Vogt delivered a game-winning single.

Vogt is a .252 batter who accumulated just 34 hits in the regular season, at least partially because he was frequently replaced by a pinch hitter. However, this time, Melvin said he'd been impressed with Vogt's hardworking at-bat against Verlander earlier in the game -- which Vogt kept alive for 10 pitches with foul balls before eventually striking out -- and decided to give him a shot at Porcello.

Vogt was ready with a game plan.

"I told myself I wanted to see a pitch," Vogt explained Sunday. "I knew Porcello had a really good sinker, and I had never seen it. So I wanted to see a pitch. I was able to kind of see the sink in the first couple of pitches and then be able to gauge it and just look for it ... in a certain area and just go attack it. And fortunately, I was able to get it in the air. So that was good."

Yes. That was good. The next few days could be even better, if the A's absorbed their 2012 lesson.

Contact Mark Purdy at mpurdy@mercurynews.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/MercPurdy.

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    Mr. October? PAGE 6
  • Rookie catcher Vogt an unlikely playoff hero. PAGE 7