There were no white flags at the Oakland Coliseum Tuesday night, only a sea of yellow towels frantically waving in the stands amidst the loud cheers of the screaming multitudes.
“Let’s go Oakland! Let’s go Oakland!”
The crowd was electric, and the team responded.
Coming into the Coliseum down two games to none to the Detroit Tigers in the American League Division Series, the Oakland Athletics spoiled their opponent’s hope of a sweep by taking a 2-0 victory and forcing Game 4.
After being the victim of Tigers relief pitcher Al Alburguerque’s baseball-kissing controversy in Game 2, it was Yoenis Cespedes who took his revenge by starting things off for the A’s.
The left-fielder continued his solid postseason run by hitting an RBI-single up the middle to plate Coco Crisp from second base and put Oakland on the board, 1-0 in the bottom of the first inning.
Seth Smith added to Oakland’s tiny lead in the fifth, taking advantage of one of few mistakes made by Tigers hurler Anibal Sanchez. After three innings of shutout pitching from the 29-year-old right-hander, Oakland’s DH, who was hitless through the first two games of the ALDS, knocked a 2-2 pitch over the centre-field wall to give his team a bit of breathing room at 2-0.
The solo shot marked Smith’s second home run against Sanchez this year.
It wasn’t much, but it was all they needed.
Oakland starter Brett Anderson came through for his team by pitching spectacularly through six innings, allowing zero runs on two hits and one walk. The lefty struck out six Detroit batters, including the most dangerous of them all, Miguel Cabrera.
Sean Doolittle put on a masterful pitching performance in the eighth, striking out all three batters he faced, and Grant Balfour, who took the loss in Game 2, forced Prince Fielder into a double play to end the game and take the save. In total, A’s pitchers racked up 11 strikeouts.
For Detroit, Sanchez went 6 1/3 innings, striking out three and walking two while giving up two runs on five hits.
A’s third baseman, Josh Donaldson, picked up two hits on the night, while Crisp added a base hit, bringing his postseason total to three in as many games. Josh Reddick, recently criticized for striking out six times over the past two games, eluded the strikeout in Game 3, but failed to get on base in three plate appearances.
I’m New Here
Neither teams’ starting pitcher had ever started a playoff game before Tuesday night.
But in Oakland’s case, Brett Anderson came into Game 3 with only six starts to his name in all of 2012.
The 24-year-old lefty, who missed most the regular season recovering from Tommy John surgery, returned to Oakland’s starting rotation on Aug. 21, but didn’t stay long. He suffered a strained right oblique that knocked him back to the disabled list after throwing just 2 1/3 innings against the Tigers on Sept. 19.
It’s only fitting that he made his return to the mound against that same team. And considering all he’s been through over the past year, Anderson’s six-inning, six-strikeout performance on Tuesday night is even more impressive.
A few for the Highlight Reel
In a game where offence was sparse, defence certainly did not fall short.
Unfortunately for Prince Fielder, who is 1-for-12 after three games, he happened to be on the wrong end of some of the best catches the 2012 postseason has seen so far.
A’s centre fielder Coco Crisp, who bobbled a ball that led to two runs being scored for the Tigers in Game 2 on Sunday afternoon, redeemed himself on Tuesday night by perfectly timing a leaping catch at the wall and robbing Fielder of extra bases in the top of the second inning.
Then in the seventh, it was Yoenis Cespedes taking a hit away from the Tigers first baseman once more with a diving, tumbling catch in left field for the first out of the inning.
It wasn’t all Oakland in terms of fielding. Detroit exhibited some fine defence of its own in the bottom of the second when Andy Dirks made an athletic running catch at the left field wall to deny Seth Smith of a base hit.
The Magical Team
Last year it was the Tampa Bay Rays and the St. Louis Cardinals coming from 10-game deficits to make the postseason in their respective leagues. This year, it’s the Oakland Athletics.
Trailing the Texas Rangers for top spot in the AL West by 12 games on July 1, and five games with only nine remaining on Sept. 24, the relentless A’s seem to be getting used to battling back from tough situations.
It’s no secret then that this Oakland team is still fighting, despite finding itself down by two games heading into Tuesday’s contest. After defeating the Tigers in Game 3, the American League Championship seems much more attainable.
Just two more wins on their own turf and they’ll be in the ALCS...
Knowing what this team has accomplished this season, it wouldn’t be wise to count them out just yet. After all, Oakland has won three games in a row at the Coliseum before – they did it over the last three games of the season, against Texas, to ensure themselves that AL West first place spot.
The Athletics entered the postseason with a 50-31 record at home. They’re not going anywhere, not yet at least.