By John Lowe, Detroit Free Press –
OAKLAND, Calif. — The Oakland A’s home crowd is as wild as the story it is cheering.
The Detroit Tigers heard the crowd and suffered the story for nine innings Tuesday night.
The sellout crowd of 37,090 roared most of the game as the A’s beat the Tigers, 2-0, to keep the Tigers from sweeping the best-of-five first-round series. The A’s can tie the series Wednesday night and force a decisive Game 5 on Thursday night against Justin Verlander.
The young A’s came from 13 games down in midseason to dethrone Texas in the AL West by sweeping the visiting Rangers in the final series. The A’s inflicted the same formula on the Tigers they did last week on the Rangers: strong pitching and timely hitting in front of a boisterous crowd that seems to believe it can will into reality the unbelievable.
How fortunate are the Tigers that even though the A’s have home-field advantage, the first two games of the series were in Detroit?
It didn’t take a lot of crowd noise to drown out the Tigers’ suddenly subdued bats. Only one run by the Tigers in the first two games of the series came on a hard-hit ball (Alex Avila’s homer). Then in Game 3 on Tuesday night, the Tigers ran into left-hander Brett Anderson, 24 , the only nonrookie in the A’s playoff rotation.
Anderson allowed only two hits and handed his bullpen a 2-0 lead after six innings . Both hits he allowed came in the second, as did the night’s biggest play.
Prince Fielder led off the second with a bolt to deep right-center. Coco Crisp, the centerfielder, raced to the right-center wall and, on the run, put his glove above it.
This is the Crisp who dropped Miguel Cabrera’s fly ball for a two-run error in Game 2. “I have to make that dang play!!!” Crisp tweeted.
Well, he made this one. He snagged the ball and robbed Fielder of the tying homer.
“Coco’s catch really got them into it,” manager Jim Leyland said. “The key was they play deep. If he had played a normal centerfield, he probably wouldn’t have got back to make the catch. It was a great catch.”
The A’s were still leading, 1-0. It was their fifth lead of the series. If Fielder’s ball had gone out, the Tigers would have done what they had done with those other four A’s leads: wiped it out in the half-inning after Oakland took it.
As the A’s came to bat in the first, the Coliseum sellout crowd was a roaring sea of green and gold. Tigers right-hander Anibal Sanchez found himself tossed about on its waves before he got an out.
Crisp led off with a single to right. Stephen Drew walked. Sanchez got the ground ball he needed for a double play, but it was a smash right up the middle for an RBI single. Pitching coach Jeff Jones went to the mound with Sanchez seeking his first out.
With runners on first and second, Sanchez struck out cleanup man Brandon Moss looking. Then Josh Reddick grounded into a double play .
After Crisp’s catch on Fielder, Delmon Young and Jhonny Peralta followed Crisp’s catch with singles to put runners at first and second. Anderson got Andy Dirks to hit into a force and rookie Avisail Garcia grounded out.
In the third, Austin Jackson walked on four pitches with one out and Omar Infante got ahead 3-1. On the next pitch, and with Cabrera on deck, Infante grounded into an inning-ending double play.
Designated hitter Seth Smith came up with one out in the fifth. As a rookie in ‘07 with Colorado, Smith struck out against Boston for the final out of the World Series. He didn’t strike out here. He got a 2-2 pitch down and in, where left-handed hitters often like the ball, and he walloped it over the fence in center.
It was the first homer allowed by Sanchez since Smith had connected off him at Comerica Park three weeks ago.
In the sixth inning, Anderson set down the top three hitters in order. He ended the inning by fanning Cabrera on a 2-2 pitch that dove out of the strike zone.
Right-hander Ryan Cook replaced Anderson to start the seventh. He retired the side on one hit, helped by Yoenis Cespedes’ diving catch in left on Fielder (not Prince’s night). Left-hander Sean Doolittle struck out the side in the eighth and let out a roar as the crowd stood and roared and waved its yellow towels.
The fans apparently have unlimited energy, but so does the Tigers’ Verlander, whom they are one game closer to seeing.