They were one game from ending their 2012 season. Or, they were one game from pushing the Tigers to a climactic Game 5 of a division series that had featured gold-star pitching throughout the first three games.

Here's what the A's were saying Wednesday a few hours before Game 4 of their divisional series against the Tigers at Oakland Coliseum:

Facing the ace

Justin Verlander would be the Tigers' starter and lead sled-dog if a Game 5 were needed. A's manager Bob Melvin knows about Verlander's habits — how enemy teams tend to get him early in a game, if they get him at all.

Melvin also understands the merits of kicking up Verlander's pitch-count in a bid to get him off the field and the bullpen into session.

"Well, we have to get there first," Melvin said as he and the A's prepared for an evening assignment against the Tigers and starter Max Scherzer .

Verlander and the Tigers beat the A's, 6-2, on Sept. 19. Verlander pitched six innings, allowed five hits, no runs, and threw 122 pitches.

"There's more than one way to beat a good starting pitcher," Melvin said. "If you can wear him down, run the pitch count up, try to get him out of the game sooner than later, stay with him — that has a little effect, too.

"Trying to get a starter early in the game before they get in their rhythm, that's another way.

"But I think there are a lot of teams that try to do that with him. The problem is that he'll throw 130 pitches in a game. Even if you get his pitch-count up, it doesn't mean he's going to come out of the game at 100 or 105 pitches.

"He's a tough customer."