Athletics-Tigers Preview

Oakland Athletics relief pitcher Grant Balfour clenches his fist after the final out Game 3 of an American League baseball division series against the Detroit Tigers in Detroit, Monday, Oct. 7, 2013. Oakland won 6-3. (AP Photo/Lon Horwedel)

After struggling in the first two games against the Detroit Tigers, Oakland's lineup finally came to life against one of the league's top pitchers.

One win from reaching the AL championship series for the first time in seven years, the Athletics face a pitcher they knocked around just over a month ago.

The A's look to build on their latest showing and again frustrate Doug Fister as they try to close out the Tigers in Game 4 at Comerica Park on Tuesday.

Despite splitting the two AL division series games in Oakland, the A's looked a bit shaky having totaled three runs and three extra-base hits. Things didn't look promising Monday with a matchup against Anibal Sanchez, the AL's ERA leader at 2.57, but Oakland took him deep three times on its way to a 6-3 victory.

Brandon Moss, Josh Reddick and Seth Smith homered off the pitcher who allowed an AL-best 0.45 homers per nine innings during the regular season.

"We're going to strike out and we're going to hit the long ball, so once we get those going, it's going to be a good day," Reddick told the Athletics' official website. "And to do it against a guy like Sanchez, who's been great all year, it does a lot for your confidence coming into (Tuesday)."

The A's, though, should already be brimming with confidence considering they tagged Fister (14-9, 3.67 ERA) for season highs of seven runs and 13 hits in five innings of a 14-4 win Aug. 28.

Fister, however, did throw seven innings of two-run ball against Oakland in Game 2 of last year's ALDS. He owns a 1.71 ERA over five career postseason starts but had good and bad performances over this season's final 5 1/2 weeks. The right-hander had a 1.32 ERA in four outings and a 7.58 mark in the other three.

Things got interesting in the ninth inning of Game 3 when A's closer Grant Balfour and Detroit hitter Victor Martinez started shouting at each other after a foul ball, causing benches and bullpens to empty. Martinez took exception to the normally fiery Balfour yelling in his direction.

"There's no tricks. We've got to win the game (Tuesday) to try to extend it to Game 5. It's that simple," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said.

The A's, who last made the ALCS in 2006 when they were swept by Detroit, are also focused on winning Game 4 so they avoid another matchup with Game 1 winner Max Scherzer.

"We look at it as we have one to win one. If we get to five, we get to Game 5," Moss said. "This is not a team you want to give any momentum to. They're too good."

Moss is hitting .444 with five homers, 11 RBIs and eight runs in five games at Comerica Park this season. He is 3 for 5 with a double against Fister, including the playoffs.

The A's turn to Dan Straily (10-8, 3.96), who was strong during Oakland's playoff push, going 4-1 with a 2.00 ERA in his final six starts. That stretch began opposite Fister at Comerica Park, when the right-hander gave up a run and eight hits in six innings.

"We either score runs or we go home," said AL batting champion Miguel Cabrera, who is 3 for 12 in the series.

Cabrera has reached base in all 27 of his postseason games with the Tigers, but he's been slowed by groin problems and was charged with an error in the third inning that led to the game's first run Monday.

"This is on everybody," Cabrera said. "We all need to do better."

Coco Crisp, who had two doubles and a single Monday, is batting .368 (7 for 19) in all matchups with Fister.

Crisp's first-inning double came just past the outstretched arm of a diving Torii Hunter. The Detroit right fielder injured his left shoulder on the play but stayed in and is expected to be in the lineup for Game 4.

Hunter has two singles in 10 at-bats in this series but has feasted on Straily's pitching, going 7 for 10 with three homers and a double.

"To be down, 2-1, the pressure's off us," Hunter told the Tigers' official website. "We can go out there, play our game and not worry about too much."