OAKLAND -- On the heels of Max Scherzer's dominating Game 1 effort, here comes Justin Verlander. The Tigers are armed and dangerous in the American League Division Series, but that's no news bulletin to the A's.
The AL West champions knew what they were facing coming in, and now the urgency heightens for Game 2 on Saturday (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT, TBS) as young Sonny Gray, in his 11th Major League start, engages Verlander, the 2011 AL Cy Young Award winner and Most Valuable Player.
"I like facing Verlander," said A's leadoff man Coco Crisp. "He's a competitor. I like facing guys who are really good -- and he's been the best pitcher in the game."
Crisp has a fond memory attached to Detroit's superlative right-hander. Leading off Game 1 of the 2012 ALDS at Comerica Park, Coco homered against Verlander. It was the only run he allowed in the game and in the series.
"It's always a shock to lead off a game with a home run, but especially against a guy like Verlander," Crisp said. "That was a shocking thing."
The A's need to find some offense, fast. They managed only six baserunners while striking out 16 times against Scherzer and relievers Drew Smyly and Joaquin Benoit in Game 1, taken by the Tigers, 3-2. Crisp walked three times, but Jed Lowrie and Josh Donaldson were a combined 0-for-8 behind him.
"We need all our components in this series," Crisp said. "We need everybody."
Yeonis Cespedes' two-run homer in the seventh got the A's back in the game, but Scherzer restored order, and the bullpen nailed it down. Brandon Moss' single and Cespedes' second-inning triple were the only other A's hits. Scherzer struck out Josh Reddick and retired Stephen Vogt to leave Cespedes stranded.
"This doesn't depend on me only," said Cespedes, who has been hindered by a sore shoulder. "This is about the whole team. [Friday] I was good, but let's hope everyone is good [Saturday]."
The Tigers came out with aggression against Bartolo Colon, and it paid off with three first-inning runs that stood up. Austin Jackson doubled on Colon's third pitch, and Torii Hunter was hit on the arm with a fastball. Miguel Cabrera slammed a first-pitch RBI single to center. After Prince Fielder grounded into double play to cash in the second run, Victor Martinez doubled and scored on Alex Avila's single.
Scoring early enabled the Tigers to take some of the energy out of the largest crowd in Oakland since 2004. But the fans roared to life when Cespedes went deep in the seventh.
"It's just loud," Jackson said. "That's what you get in the playoffs, that type of atmosphere. You want to try to take some of that away from them if you can."
Gray, with high-octane stuff, will try to keep the Tigers quiet in his matchup with Verlander. Gray, a standout at Vanderbilt while Verlander was building his reputation as the game's premier starter, has a killer curveball to go with his 93 mph heater, changeup and slider.
"The problem with Sonny Gray," said Tigers manager Jim Leyland, "is we don't know much about him, other than what we've seen on TV."
Verlander had an uncharacteristic season, going 13-12 with a 3.46 ERA and ceding his role as the ace to Scherzer. His teammates expect Verlander to be in prime form with so much on the line.
"He's going to step up for us," Hunter said. "Trust me, Verlander's going to try to match what Scherzer did. He's a competitor."
The 96-win A's have had an amazing season. They don't want to go down 0-2 heading to Detroit.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.