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ALDS Game 2 wrapup: A’s show their fight once again; Coliseum had room for more than baseball

This was what Raul Ibanez meant.

Last week when I was talking with the Mariners outfielder, he praised the A’s mental toughness, their inability to stop fighting. He called them one of the grittiest clubs he had ever seen.

Saturday’s 1-0 win over Detroit was the personification of that game. They scored not a run against former Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander for seven innings, then didn’t score in the eighth after putting two men on base.

Come the ninth inning, the A’s were still clawing. Yoenis Cespedes and Seth Smith backed up doubles, and after Josh Reddick was intentionally walked, Stephen Vogt came up with the game-winner.

On paper, the Tigers may have the better team. They certainly hit for a better average, and as good as the A’s starting pitching is, the Tigers will say theirs in better. There is no Miguel Cabrera or Justin Verlander in Oakland.

But as Ibanez was pointing out, some things can’t be measured in statistics alone.

The result makes for some very good baseball. Saturday’s game was as good an exhibition of high-quality baseball as you’re likely to see.

As Tigers manager Jim Leyland said, “This is post-season pitching. That’s what you saw tonight at its best.’’

This kind of victory actually speaks well for the A’s going forward. The Tigers have sent their best two starters at Oakland and only got a split of the games. Jarrod Parker, who pitched a solid Game 1 in Comerica Park last year, goes against the Tigers in a day game Monday, and Dan Straily, whose win on Aug. 28 came at the expense of the pitcher he’ll oppose Tuesday, Doug Fister, has been pitching as well as anyone.

–Billy Beane was asked how Saturday’s scoreless battle between starters Verlander and Sonny Gray matched up with A’s post-season pitching matchups.

Misunderstanding the question, Beane said it reminded him of the 1991 Jack Morris 10-inning 1-0 win, outlasting Atlanta’s John Smoltz, who like Morris did not allow a run.

After that, Beane came up with Barry Zito vs. Mike Mussina of the Yankees in the 2001 playoffs, and Tim Hudson vs. the Yankees Andy Pettitte, also in 2001.

The fact is this one was a classic, for most of us anyway.

Late in the game the A’s general manager brought his kids down to manager Bob Melvin’s office where they, along with A’s managing partner Lew Wolff broke out the crayons and did some coloring.

The preschoolers (not including Beane Sr. and Wolff) “didn’t even know when we scored the winning run,’’ Beane said.

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A long journey begins

The key number for this nine-game road trip the A’s are starting: 6,544.

That’s the total miles the team will fly from Oakland to Seattle, to Tampa, to Toronto and back home. There are off-days sandwiched around both ends of the Rays series, but that is one brutal trip given the crazy routing. Not exactly ideal for a team sporting a 18-35 road record, though I’m not sure how much the travel itself has factored into the A’s play on the road. Given how well they played on the last homestand, an obvious key is whether the A’s bats can stay hot on this three-city journey. They open up against a Seattle team that just traded two-fifths of its starting rotation in Doug Fister and Erik Bedard.

Speaking of travel, the Mariners won’t have too much sympathy for the A’s, given the grind they annually face as a result of being tucked away in the northwest corner of the country. The difference for the Mariners and, say, the teams situated way up in the Northeast is that Seattle’s division opponents are much more spread out, making for longer trips (and more often) throughout the season.

Personally, I’m just happy I remembered my passport for when we cross into Canada.

–Lefty Jordan Norberto, one of the players obtained in the Brad Ziegler trade, joined the A’s today. He knows Conor Jackson (a former teammate with Arizona), Jemile Weeks (an opponent in the minors) and Fautino De Los Santos (who grew up in a neighboring town in the Dominican Republic.). His addition gives the A’s eight relievers – four lefties and four righties – and manager Bob Melvin said he likes the flexibility that gives him for matchups. I’d expect a reliever to be sent down sometime after this series, however. Melvin acknowledged that it’s tough operating with a three-man bench, and since Toronto and Tampa Bay both play on turf, he would like to give some position players a game off to save them wear and tear. He’ll need more depth in order to do that.

–Norberto throws a fastball, slider and change-up, and he said his command has improved a little lately because he’s repeating his delivery better.

–Still no David DeJesus in the lineup, but he swung off a tee today and said his right thumb is feeling better.

Tonight’s lineups:

A’s – Weeks 2B, Crisp CF, Matsui DH, Willingham LF, Sweeney RF, Jackson 1B, Pennington SS, Suzuki C, Sizemore 3B, Cahill RHP.

Mariners – Ichiro RF, Ryan SS, Ackley 2B, Carp DH, Kennedy 1B, Olivo C, Wells LF, Figgins 3B, Gutierrez CF, Beavan RHP.