OAKLAND -- As the A's were sneaking up on the sports world, Brett Anderson was invisible. He was wounded and watching and hoping his teammates could extend the season until he could return.
They did, and so did he.
There was Anderson on Tuesday night, taking the mound for the first time in three weeks. In his absence the A's had rallied past a wild-card bid and into the playoffs as American League West champions.
And now he was being asked to win Game 3 of this A. L. Division Series. To save Oakland's season.
And the left-hander jogged out to the mound, standing atop it as if he belonged. He clearly did, quickly proving it to his manager, to his teammates, to 37,090 roaring fans stuffed into the Coliseum and, most of all, to the Detroit Tigers in a 2-0 victory that gives the A's at least one more evening of baseball.
"He had ice in his veins tonight," catcher Derek Norris said of Anderson.
With six superb innings of two-hit ball, keeping Oakland alive in this best-of-five series, Anderson reaffirmed several things, all of them welcome in the A's clubhouse.
The first is that he is sufficiently recovered from the strained right oblique he suffered Sept. 19, when he was forced to leave the game in the third inning at Detroit.
"It wasn't (feeling) great," Anderson said. "But it was kind of a dull ache, more annoying than anything else."
The second statement Anderson made in his first career postseason start was that he is utterly fearless and perfectly comfortable in a crisis, and the third is that he is back with a vengeance, re-establishing for the second time this season his status as the ace of the Oakland staff.
The fourth and most appreciated message delivered by Anderson is there will be a Game 4 on Wednesday night at the Coliseum.
"We'll go at it in the same fashion as tonight," manager Bob Melvin said, "and see what it gets us."
Anderson's job was to get the A's off the floor after they were knocked down by the Tigers, who last weekend won two games in Detroit. There was no margin for error, yet Anderson made one anyway -- only to have it deleted by the glove of center fielder Coco Crisp.
After Anderson sailed through the first inning on eight pitches -- striking out leadoff batter Austin Jackson on three pitches, ringing up Omar Infante on four and retiring Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera on a first-pitch ground out -- Prince Fielder led off the second with a searing line drive to deep right-center.
Crisp raced after it, reached the warning track and took flight, snagging the ball just before it would have disappeared over the fence for a game-tying home run.
"Coco kind of set the tone, robbing a homer," Anderson said. "You don't ever expect a guy to rob a homer for you."
The next two batters, Delmon Young and Jhonny Peralta, each grounded singles, but Anderson wriggled out of trouble. Even though he lost command of the strike zone for the next three innings, his stuff was good enough to avoid trouble. Fielder's drive was the only ball hit beyond the infield.
"Brett really bore down after that, and (the pitch Fielder hit) really wasn't that bad a pitch," Norris said. "But after that, he was invincible."
Anderson threw 80 pitches before handing the game to Ryan Cook, Sean Doolittle and Grant Balfour, who each tossed a scoreless inning to lock it up.
Though Anderson lobbied to go beyond the sixth, he was on a pitch count, which Melvin did not divulge to Anderson or the media.
Anderson, 24, should have been on a pitch count. He hadn't pitched in three weeks because of the tender oblique. He is 15 months removed from reconstructive elbow surgery, from which he returned Aug. 21 -- only to have the oblique flare up four weeks later.
"You like to stay in, being a competitor," Anderson said. "But you can see both sides of it. And fortunately it worked out today."
It worked because the bullpen rebounded from an ordinary Game 2 on Sunday in Detroit, perhaps inspired by Anderson.
They all knew how much this game meant. They all wondered if Anderson, the staff veteran, could deliver in the clutch. Once he did, the A's fairly floated through the final innings.
"I don't know how you could expect more than what we got out of him tonight," Melvin said of Anderson.
No, the A's got everything they could have wanted, six splendid innings from a man whose health was a bit of mystery.
And Anderson got everything he could have hoped for, a chance to contribute when his teammates really needed him.
They all get one more game, which is all they wanted and, on this night, the most they could have gotten.