Athletics take 2-1 series lead over Tigers
DETROIT — One more victory in two chances will send the Oakland Athletics into the American League Championship Series.
Oakland, eliminated by Detroit in the 2006 and 2012 playoffs, pushed the Tigers to the edge of elimination Monday with Josh Reddick, Brandon Moss and Seth Smith hitting home runs off Anibal Sanchez to power the Athletics to a 6-3 victory.
It gave the A’s a 2-1 lead in their best-of-five AL Division Series.
Manager Jim Leyland will give the ball to Doug Fister on Tuesday afternoon against Oakland’s Dan Straily. The Tigers hope to send the series back to Oakland for a decisive fifth game on Thursday.
“There’s no tricks,” Leyland said. “We’ve got to win a game to try to extend it to Game 5. We ran into another situation where we didn’t put enough runs on the board.”
“We’ve been obviously pitching really well,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. “Our starters are keeping us in the game.
“Our bullpen came in and shut them down. It’s fortunate for us to this point that we’re keeping them at bay.”
Detroit has just two extra-base hits in three games against Oakland — doubles by Victor Martinez — and the Athletics are being aggressive in attacking a Tigers team diminished by injuries that have robbed Miguel Cabrera of his power.
The Tigers ended a 20-inning scoreless streak with three runs in the fourth to create a 3-3 tie, but Moss hit a one-out solo home run to right off Sanchez (0-1) in the fifth to break the deadlock.
“I was just trying to hit something,” Moss said. “It seems like I’ve got two strikes on me in every at-bat. In all honesty, I’m just trying to hit a mistake. I swung over a couple pitches. He left a changeup up and I stayed back and hit it.”
Yoenis Cespedes followed with a single, and Smith drilled an opposite-field home run to left to restore the A’s three-run margin.
“I got a 3-1 fastball right there,” said Smith, who is hitting .409 with four home runs off Sanchez in his career. “I don’t think Cespedes being on first hurt anything. Him being on first, his speed and the things he can do.”
Jarrod Parker (1-0) worked the first five innings, allowing the three runs, and Grant Balfour got the save. In between, the A’s got two innings of shutout work from Dan Otero and one from Sean Doolittle.
Balfour and leadoff hitter Victor Martinez got into a shouting match after a foul ball on a 1-1 pitch, but it never got beyond words.
“It’s playoff baseball,” Leyland said. “Everybody in the league knows, including Oakland, that he (Balfour) is an energy guy. It looks like he came off the mound yelling at Victor. Victor took exception to it and I don’t blame him.”
“I know Balfour talks to himself quite a bit,” Melvin said. “Sometimes players maybe think he’s talking to them.”
Torii Hunter singled to lead off the Tigers’ fourth, Prince Fielder singled him to third, and Martinez drove in Detroit’s first run in its last 21 innings against Oakland pitching with a double down the first-base line. Jhonny Peralta, in the lineup to give the Tigers’ offense a boost, then lined a two-run single to left.
Reddick’s home run was the first of two runs the Athletics scored in the fourth to take a 3-0 lead. Game 2 hero Stephen Vogt tripled after the home run and scored on a sacrifice fly to left by Coco Crisp, who had three hits.
Third baseman Cabrera’s injury-weakened lower body contributed to Oakland scoring the first run of the game in the third inning.
Cabrera, bothered by groin and abdominal problems, was unable to get in front of Cespedes’ two-out grounder, and the ball high-hopped off his left wrist into left field for an error that allowed Crisp to speed in from second. Crisp had singled leading off the third and stolen second.
Notes: Oakland’s Tuesday starter Straily defeated Detroit 14-4 at Comerica Park on Aug. 28. “It was one of those bend but don’t break outings,” said Straily, who allowed one run on eight hits in six innings in that game. “I made one mistake pitch to Torii Hunter (home run) that he made me pay for.” ... Oakland, which had its string of 20 shutout innings against Detroit halted on Monday, had a 30-inning postseason scoreless-innings streak against Baltimore in 1974 (ALCS) and 21 against St. Louis in 1930 (World Series) ... Fister, Detroit’s Game 4 starter, lost to Oakland in August. “That was awhile ago,” he said. “I was struggling about that time, trying to keep the ball down and really trying to fine-tune some of my pitches.” ... Cabrera’s first-inning single meant he has reached base safely in all 27 of his postseason games with the Tigers. ... Detroit pitchers have struck out 41 Oakland batters in three games but the A’s have a 9-2 edge in extra-base hits including a 4-0 margin in home runs.