OAKLAND -- Dennis Eckersley, who pitched his way in to the Hall of Fame as a closer in the late 1980s and 1990s, is in town as part of the TBS announcing crew.

Eckersley said he likes the A's, but said Friday's game is critically important to Oakland if it is going to dethrone the Tigers as American League champions.

``You look at (Saturday) and you've got the kid (Sonny Gray) going against Justin Verlander,'' Eckersley said, suggesting the Tigers would have to be heavy favorites to win Game 2. ``You look at that and you think how big this game tonight is.''

Eckersley, who collected 320 of his 390 career saves after making the move from starter to reliever at age 32 under manager Tony La Russa and pitching coach Dave Duncan, said he saw the A's early last year when the club was struggling.

``Right after that, they took off and they've never stopped,'' said the closer-turned-commentator, whose retired number 43 adorns the left side of Mount Davis in the Coliseum. ``They've been an amazing story. They're no fluke.''



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