OAKLAND, Calif. – These Oakland Athletics never count themselves out – down and doubted is their dogma.
Brett Anderson outdueled fellow postseason first-timer Anibal Sanchez and the upstart A’s were stellar on defense all over the diamond, avoiding another playoff sweep by Detroit by beating the Tigers 2-0 Tuesday night in their A.L. division series.
The A’s cut their deficit in the best-of-5 matchup to 2-1.
Coco Crisp, whose misplay dearly cost Oakland in Game 2, saved a likely home run by Prince Fielder with a leaping catch at the top of the center-field wall in the second – and the A’s will play another day in this improbable season full of remarkable rallies.
“You see him hit it and you just kind of put your head down a little bit because you think you just gave up a homer,” Anderson said. “Then you see him plow through there and catch the ball and it kind of kick starts you to go out there and make pitches.”
Yoenis Cespedes hit an RBI single in the first inning and Seth Smith homered later. That was plenty on a night Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera, Fielder and the Tigers’ high-priced offense were shut down by the low-budget A’s.
Tigers 16-game winner Max Scherzer will try to close out the series in Game 4 tonight against A’s rookie A.J. Griffin. Detroit swept the A’s in the 2006 A.L. championship series.
Fielder was the biggest victim of Oakland’s spot-on defense, robbed three times. First by Crisp, Oakland’s most experienced player whose blunder on Cabrera’s fly allowed two runs to score in a 5-4 loss Sunday in Detroit.
Crisp let out a big “Whoo!” after raising his arm to signal he’d made the grab.
“Coco’s catch, the ball was out of the ballpark and it came back,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “The key to that play was he was playing deep and that enabled him to get into a spot to get up and make the catch. And it was a great catch, no doubt about it.”
A’s shortstop Stephen Drew made a tough play running to his left to stop Fielder’s grounder in the fourth and then threw to first while still off balance and in motion.
Then, in the seventh, Cespedes cut over to make a diving catch on Fielder’s liner to left field.
That delighted the yellow towel-waving sellout crowd of 37,090 in this blue-collar city.
“It’s frustrating. But it’s a good team you’re playing,” Fielder said. “They’re going to make those plays. That’s why they’re here.”
After Cabrera singled with one out in the ninth, Fielder grounded into a game-ending double play.
The A’s own the lowest payroll in baseball at $59.5 million. Fielder is getting big money in Motown: $214 million over nine years.
Anderson, back on the mound for the first time since straining a muscle in his right side Sept. 19 at Detroit, worked quickly and showed no signs of a layoff or jitters in his first postseason start.
That’s just not the way the A’s have operated this year.
Last week, Oakland entered its final three-game series of the regular season needing to sweep the two-time reigning A.L. champion Rangers to capture the A.L. West – and the A’s did it.
A club with a majors-best 14 walkoff wins and countless whipped cream pie celebrations snapped the longest postseason skid in franchise history at six games. All of those were against the Tigers.
Anderson faced the minimum in three of his four innings, throwing 51 pitches through four.Anderson insisted he was healthy and ready to go – and Melvin took his pitcher at his word and gave him a shot in his biggest start yet.
Not feeling quite 100 percent, he allowed two hits, struck out six and walked two in six innings. Then the reliable bullpen took over.
Ryan Cook pitched the seventh, Sean Doolittle struck out the side in order in the eighth and closer Grant Balfour finished the four-hitter for a save. The A’s staff pitched the 11th postseason shutout by the franchise, while the Tigers were blanked for the 13th time in the postseason.