After 94 wins and an AL west division crown, the Oakland Athletics apparently couldn’t stand the prosperity. So they went to Detroit and put themselves in a two-game hole in their best-of-five playoff series.
Back at home Tuesday night in front of their O.co Coliseum fans, the A’s staved off elimination with a clean 2-0 victory to force a game 4 tonight.
The A’s got this far with rookie pitchers, no-name position players platooning in several spots and an approach at the plate that brought a lot of home runs as well as an AL record for strikeouts. It worked brilliantly in the second half as Bob Melvin’s club chased down the powerhouse Rangers and passed them up on the final day of the season.
It didn’t work in Detroit. Rookie pitchers Jarrod Parker and Tommy Milione did their part, but the Tigers took advantage of Jaon Verlander’s dominance (Gm 1) and some lapses on defense by the A’s (Gm 2) to put Oakland on the brink of elimination.
This year’s division series format has the higher seed (Oakland) playing the first two games on the road before coming home for three straight. Even one win on the road would put the higher seeded club in a commanding position, but the A’s couldn’t manage that and now it’s win-or-go home.
Win, the Oakland A’s did last night behind a solid start from LHP Brett Anderson ( 6 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 6 K). Coco Crisp singled and scored in the first inning and DH Seth Smith hit a solo homer in the fifth. Anderson and the A’s bullpen crew of Ryan Cook, Sean Doolittle and Grant Balfour made it stand up.
Detroit got an ace-like performance from starter Anibal Sanchez that went to waste. 6 1/3 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB and 3 K’s wasn’t a good enough line in this October showdown. The series continues.
Today it will be Max Scherzer for the Tigers against the third A’s rookie starter, A. J. Griffin. The A’s backs are against the wall and there is a lot of talk around baseball about the first-time formula for home and road games in a playoff series. Oakland was 50-31 at the O.co Coliseum this year and if they win tonight, they have the decisive Gm 5 on their home field. Just like if they would have won two at home then traveled and lost two in Detroit. Playoff teams should be able to defend their home turf and if not, they suffer the consequences. It isn’t like the lower seeded team gets three at home.
It’s a full slate today with four games starting at 1PM ET. The Tigers and A’s start at 9:30PM ET on TNT.