DETROIT -- Dan Otero isn't a starting pitcher, but the A's reliever has a way of defining what Oakland starters can do.
Monday's A's pitcher Jarrod Parker had a 6-3 lead and had just pitched a quick fifth inning when he was replaced by Otero.
Parker is one of the A's aces. At one point he went 31/2 months and 19 starts without losing a game this season. He'd thrown only 73 pitches. So what was Otero doing in the game?
Getting outs. Otero has been remarkably efficient at that in 2013. He went from June 25 through the end of the season, a total of 29 appearances covering 351/3 innings, in which he allowed just four runs, three earned. He had a 1.38 ERA for the season and a 0.76 ERA for those 29 games.
So the A's, who started the year figuring that Sean Doolittle, Ryan Cook and Grant Balfour could cover the last three innings, have added Otero to the mix and feel comfortable with the bullpen picking up four innings.
On Monday it did just that. Otero, Doolittle and Balfour combined to allow two singles and two walks and, most important, no runs.
Otero pitched the sixth and seventh before relinquishing the ball.
"Those were the two biggest innings of my career," he said. "Those were the six biggest outs of my life."
As he continues his success, he may very well get the opportunity to say that again.
"To be down 2-1, pressure's off us," right fielder Torii Hunter said. "We go out there tomorrow and play our game and not worry about too much. I think that's what we need to do. I think we tried to do a little too much (today) and also, they're playing well. Those guys hit the ball well today. Three home runs -- that's pretty good. But we'll come back tomorrow. It's not over yet."
The A's outfielder/D.H. has started games 2 and 3 of the American League Division Series and has four hits, including a single to set up the winning run Saturday and a two-run homer that gave the A's a sense of security en route to a 6-3 win Monday.
Will Smith be in the lineup Tuesday when the A's have a chance to close out the ALDS? He doesn't know. Smith is in the position of never knowing quite when he'll play.
The A's have three regular outfielders in Yoenis Cespedes, Coco Crisp and Josh Reddick, and if Daric Barton plays first base, which he does frequently, then Brandon Moss is the D.H. and Smith is on the bench.
"I've had lots of practice at no playing, then playing," Smith said. "Either way, when you're in the game, you're expected to produce."
In the third week of August, Smith took a few days off to have some touch-up laser surgery on his eyes. In his fourth game after coming back, he ended a 40-game homerless stretch with a bomb in Comerica Park. He hasn't stopped hitting since.
He averaged .393 in September and is 4 for 8 with a homer in the ALDS.
Even when the A's beat on him for four runs in five innings on Aug. 26, they got just one homer off him.
So what's with the Oakland offense taking him deep three times Monday?
"Me, personally, I was just trying to hit something," said Moss, who had struck out in seven of 10 plate appearances in the ALDS before going deep. "So right there, I swung over a couple of pitches, then he left a changeup up, and I stayed back long enough to hit it."
OK, that's one.
"You will miss them sometimes," said Smith, whose two-run homer capped the game's scoring in the fifth. "Fortunately for me, I was able to get the barrel to it. The fastball right there, and it's a 3-1 (count), and I don't think Yoenis Cespedes hurt anything (by being on first base and distracting Sanchez)."
"He's a tough one," said Reddick, whose homer in the fourth doubled the A's lead to 2-0. "You know he doesn't give up many. And one run isn't much against their lineup."