DETROIT - Not even the most pessimistic Detroit Tigers fans could have imagined that today could be the last day of the season.
But following the Tigers' ugly 6-3 loss to the Oakland Athletics in Game 3 on Monday afternoon, they face elimination in the ALDS at Comerica Park.
Oakland leads the best-of-five series two games to one.
Remember, most MLB experts picked the Tigers to go to the World Series before the season started. Last season, they lost to the San Francisco Giants in the Fall Classic.
The Tigers will start Doug Fister in the do-or-die game.
"When you're number is called, you're ready to go," said Fister about Game 4 at Comerica Park. "And that's kind of the way things have been and that's my mindset (Tuesday). It's not going to change anything. It's the same as any other start that we have made all year."
Under normal circumstances, you wouldn't question Fister getting his turn in the playoff rotation.
But with the season on the line and Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander in the dugout available, many wonder why Leyland won't call an audible and opt for one of those two starters on short rest. And if the Tigers can force a Game 5 in Oakland, Leyland would have one of his aces on full five days rest to pitch in the series finale.
It's not a crazy question after seeing the Dodgers do it on Monday night. The only difference is that LA was up in the series, 2-1, and going for the clincher. Rather than pitching their fourth starter in Game 4, the Dodgers opted for ace Clayton Kershaw.
The thinking was simple. They wanted to close out the series at home rather than let the Atlanta Braves back in and be forced to go to ATL for a deciding Game 5.
And even if the Dodgers lost, they would have a fully rested Zack Greinke for the final game of the series.
For sure, Tigers fans would be disappointed for the season to end with their aces -- who dominated the A's in Oakland in Games 1 and 2 -- on the bench.
Tigers fans thought Prince Fielder was the missing offensive piece when he signed here in 2011. And while Fielder's regular seasons have been reason to cheer -- filled with two 100-plus RBI seasons and a total of 55 home runs in his first two seasons in Motown -- his postseasons have left a lot to be desired.
In fact, they have be a disaster.
Coming into Monday afternoon's Game 3 of the ALDS against the Oakland A's, Fielder was batting a woeful .167 in his 15 playoff games with the Tigers.
Fielder snapped out of his funk, going 2-for-4 with two singles.
"I felt all right," Fielder said. "I was trying not to do too much and hit it where it was pitched."
When Fielder stepped up to bat in the bottom of the fourth, he was overdue, to say the least. Fielder had just a lone single in his first eight at-bats in the five-game series.
"He swung the bat good today and he hit another line drive at the shortstop, he hit it hard," Leyland said. "He swung the bat exceptionally well."
With a man on first and one out and the Tigers down, 3-0, Fielder finally delivered with a single to left field.
It helped to ignite the Tigers to a three-run, ending a 20 straight scoreless innings streak in the series.
"Anytime you get down three and can jump and get three runs quick in one inning, it's always a good feeling," Fielder said. "But it just wasn't enough."
The Tigers -- who scored the most runs in MLB during the regular season -- scored three runs in the first inning of Game 1 in Oakland. Then, they couldn't buy a run until the fourth inning in Game 3.
With Miguel Cabrera, the 2012 Triple Crown winner, struggling with a hip injury, the Tigers needed Fielder to step up and supply power.
Coming into the game, Cabrera had just two extra base hits since Aug. 26. One was a homer.
"It's not just one guy, you can't blame one guy," said Cabrera when asked if Fielder had to pick up the slack in the power department with him playing hurt.