DETROIT -- One A's hitter after another made the slow walk back to the dugout in frustration Saturday.
That was the dominant image from Oakland's first postseason game in six years, a 3-1 loss to the Detroit Tigers that left the A's in an early hole in their American League Divisional Series.
Tigers ace Justin Verlander held them to three hits over seven innings and struck out 11, the most strikeouts against the A's in a playoff game since the Mets' Tom Seaver fanned 12 in the 1973 World Series.
Now the A's need a quick rebound. Game 2 comes at 9 a.m. (PT) Sunday, and they can ill-afford to head back home down 2-0 in this best-of-five series.
"We're not worrying," A's right fielder Josh Reddick said. "We've done well against people all year when we go down one game. We're not going to fret over it and panic. If we can steal one outta here and go back home, we're not panicking at all."
Things couldn't have started better for the A's. Coco Crisp became just the fourth player in Oakland history to lead off a playoff game with a home run, pulling a 1-2 fastball just over the right field wall in the first.
That was it. The A's struck out 14 times, no big surprise from a team that broke the American League single-season record with 1,387 stirkeouts.
But Reddick and some of his teammates felt Verlander got too much of an assist from home plate umpire Jim Reynolds' strike zone.
"I saw one pitch over the chalk (of the batter's box) and one between the chalk and the plate that wasn't even close," said Reddick, who returned to the clubhouse periodically during the game to watch video. "But I can't turn around and yell at him. When everybody's making complaints in multiple at-bats, most of the time it's not gonna be you that's wrong."
A's third baseman Josh Donaldson was seen yelling at Reynolds from the dugout after Stephen Drew was called out on a fifth-inning pitch that looked low.
"I think we were a little frustrated, yeah," A's manager Bob Melvin said.
Nonetheless, the A's ran up Verlander's pitch count early but couldn't take advantage. The defending A.L. Cy Young and MVP. threw 26 pitches in the first and finished with 121.
But as he often does, he found his groove as the innings ticked away. He struck out the side in the sixth, when his fastball hit 101 mph on the stadium radar gun.
"He was typical Justin Verlander," A's catcher Derek Norris said. "But he threw a lot more off-speed than typical. When push came to shove, he reached back and made the pitches he needed to get out of the inning."
A's rookie starter Jarrod Parker pitched well, going 61/3 innings and allowing three runs (two earned). But he made a crucial mistake with two outs in the third and the score 1-1.
Parker tried to glove Quintin Berry's swinging bunt toward first but he swiped at the ball and knocked it away. That allowed Omar Infante to score from third and put Detroit ahead.
The Tigers added an insurance run with a homer in the fifth when Parker elevated a fastball and Alex Avila homered to left-center.
The A's are faced with no easy task now. First pitch is noon (Eastern Time Zone) on Sunday, but considering players' internal clocks likely haven't adjusted to the Eastern zone yet, it will probably feel like they're taking the field at 9 a.m.
Tigers game 2 starter Doug Fister, a Merced native, holds a 2.45 ERA against the A's in 11 career starts.
The A's send left-hander Tommy Milone to the mound, who will be making his postseason debut. Milone's road ERA this season was 4.83 compared to 2.74 at home.
Melvin doesn't think the early start time will hinder the A's.
"Both teams have to play with it," he said.
"It's just one game," Norris said. "We're gonna go in with a clean slate and battle and hopefully win it."