Tigers 3, A's 2: Max Scherzer, Joaquin Benoit brilliant in ALDS game one victory

Thearon W. Henderson

Max Scherzer, Drew Smyly and Joaquin Benoit combined for a franchise playoff record 16 strikeouts, leading the Tigers to a huge road win and a 1-0 advantage over the A's in the ALDS.


Final - 10.4.2013 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Detroit Tigers 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 10 0
Oakland Athletics 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 2 3 1
WP: Max Scherzer (1 - 0)
SV: Joaquin Benoit (1)
LP: Bartolo Colon (0 - 1)

Complete Coverage >


The Detroit Tigers' biggest advantage in going into their division series with the Oakland Athletics was their starting pitching. Max Scherzer was the winning advantage for the Tigers tonight, striking out 11 over seven innings, making three first inning runs hold up in a 3-2 victory.

The win gives the Tigers a 1-0 advantage over the A's in the ALDS. Three Tigers' pitchers combined for 16 strikeouts, which is a franchise record for the postseason.

Scherzer made just one mistake, giving up a two run homer to Yoneis Cespedes in the seventh. Other than that one pitch, the A's could do nothing with Scherzer. The odds on Cy Young winner went seven full innings, allowing two runs on just three hits, walking two and striking out 11.

Called on for a four out save, Joaquin Benoit was lights out. The Tigers' closer faced the meat of the A's order, retiring all four batters he faced, including striking out the side to end the game.

Bartolo Colon had one bad stretch,, but it was to start the game. The Tigers hung three first inning runs on the A's number one starter, giving them a lead they would never relinquish. Colon would ultimately pitch six innings, scattering ten hits, striking out four. Most night's that would earn you a win. But not when Scherzer was flashing his Cy Young form.

The A's bullpen was excellent, Dan Otero and Scott Doolittle shut the Tigers' offense down completely over three hitless innings.

Alex Avila led the Tigers' attack with two hits and what would end up as the game winning RBI. Miguel Cabrera opened the Tigers' scoring with an RBI single. Victor Martinez and Omar Infante chipped in with two hits each.

Offensively, the A's were, to use a cliche, offensive. The punchout prone Athletics would go down on strikes 16 times, which is a team playoff record. Cespedes supplied all the of the A's offense with his one swing of the bat.

As Jim Leyland has said over and over again, the Tigers' recipe for victory is a simple one - hit the ball in the gaps and over the fence, and outpitch the opposition. Tonight, the Tigers hit just enough, and their excellent starting pitching got them to the eighth. Scherzer getting the Tigers' to the eighth took the soft white underbelly of the bullpen out of play.

Also, give Leyland credit. He knows just how big a game one win on the road in the playoffs can be. So rather than save Benoit for the ninth, he called on his best reliever to take on A's MVP candidate Josh Donaldson for the final out of the eighth.

In what was the biggest out of the game, Benoit induced Donaldson to pop up with the tying run on base.

Most every move Leyland made tonight paid off. Of course, asking for a four out save from Benoit was the biggest one. There was also going with Scherzer over Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez game one, Mad Max coming through with one of his best performances of the season. Don't forget Leyland moved Avila up in the batting order, which resulted in two hits and the game winning RBI.

You know, sometimes Leyland really knows what he's doing.

A good start for the Tigers against Bartolo Colon would do wonders for a nervous fan base worried about a lack of momentum. They did just that by taking an early lead.

Austin Jackson led off by lining a low-90's fastball into the right field corner, cruising to a a two base hit. Colon proceeded to pitch inside to Torii Hunter. The first high and tight pitch brushing him back, the second hitting Hunter in the shoulder.

We'd soon find out if five days off helped injured Miguel Cabrera. Colon must have thought so, as Cabrera lined an RBI single through his wickets and into center, Jackson racing home with the Tigers' first run.

Runners on the corners for Prince Fielder, the A's traded two outs for a run. Hunter scored on Fielder's 6-4-3 double play ball, giving the Tigers a 2-0 lead.

But the rally didn't end there.

Victor Martinez smoked a liner over short which found the gap and rolled all the way to wall for the second double of the inning. Alex Avila, batting higher up in the order than usual in the six spot, hit a ground ball under the glove of first baseman Daric Barton which found the hole in the right side. Second baseman Eric Sogard tried to make a sprawling, diving stop, but only succeed in knocking the ball further into right field, allowing Martinez to score the third run of the inning.

Omar Infante bounced to short, ending a big inning. The Tigers had scored three runs on four hits and a hit batsman, taking a 3-0 lead before the A's even had a chance to bat.

So much for end of the season momentum, huh?

Scherzer did just that, setting the A's down in order by firing a 14 pitch shutdown first inning. The game could not have started much better for the Tigers.

Bottom of the second and the Tigers still up 3-0, Yoenis Cespedes was the first Athletic to reach base. He also reached second and third, thanks to Andy Dirks not taking the best of routes on Cespedes' liner to left. The ball sailed over his head, bouncing off the wall toward left center. By the time Dirks' relay reached the infield, Cespedes was sliding into third.

Cue the "Hell, Jhonny Peralta could do that" takes.

Scherzer proceeded to take matters into his own capable hands, cranking up his fastball into the high 90's.

Scherzer reared back and blew Josh Reddick away with a nasty 98 MPH fastball for the second out. He then pitched out the jam when Stephen Vogt's humpback liner was hit directly to Fielder. It was one Hell of a good inning for the likely Cy Young winner.

By the third inning, Colon had changed his strategy, junking it up and relying on off-speed breaking stuff to keep the Tigers from teeing off on his low 90's fastball. The chubby one had retired five straight before Fielder singled with two down. Martinez was unable to keep the third alive, striking out to end the inning.

The always dangerous Coco Crisp manufactured a threat in the bottom half of the third. He drew a two out walk, then forced Scherzer to throw to first a handful of times before he uncorked a wild pitch, Crisp advanced to second, setting up an RBI opportunity for Jed Lowrie. He was unable to capitalize, stranding Crisp on a weak ground ball to Infante.

Through three full innings, the Tigers were still holding onto their three run lead.

Bottom of four, Scherzer was in beast mode, striking out Donaldson, Brandon Moss (who destroyed the Tigers the last time he faced them in August) and Cespedes. Donaldson threw a fairly entertaining hissy fit when he was punched out. Tigers fans have seen Cabrera tossed for far less emotive complaints ... such as for looking at an umpire.

In the fifth inning, TBS sunk to new lows. Hunter was caught stealing to end the top half of the inning, but we never saw it. The TBS crew was droning on about Cabrera's injury while the camera was trained on him. Next thing you know, the A's crowd was roaring, the camera cutting to a ticked off Hunter. He obviously thought he was safe, but the replay TBD showed was of the worst angle possible, unable to see either the tag or Hunter's hand.

After the break we finally got a replay which showed Hunter was safe as the announcing crew called it a stupid play. So Hunter was safe, but it was a stupid play because the umpire blew the call.

GOT IT. I need a drink.

At least Scherzer was keeping the mutterings of TBS idiocy to a minimum by dominating the A's with quick innings. Bottom half of the fifth, Scherzer struck out two more in a second straight 1-2-3 inning (MLB.com video). He had retired seven consecutive, five via the K. Scherzer had allowed just the one hit to Cespedes, had struck out nine through five full innings and his pitch count was at a still reasonable 79 pitches.

Top of six, the Tigers put together their first scoring threat since the first inning. Tom Brookens proceeded to wave the Tigers out of it.

One down, Martinez and Avila reached on back-to-back singles. Infante followed up by bouncing a single to right. The strong throwing Reddick came up firing with a strike to Vogt.

The result was typical.

Vuvuzuela_medium

Martinez was out by ten feet (MLB.com video).

Instead of the bases loaded and one out, the Tigers had runners on the corners with two down. Dirks' awful game at the plate continued, popping up to end a frustrating half inning.

Bottom half on the sixth, Crisp made Scherzer work, reaching base on a one out walk. Lowrie sent a foul fly to left, and Dirks made a great running ... well, that's what I would have typed if Dirks hadn't dropped the ball, which bounced off the heel of his glove. But the A's didn't convert on the extra out. Lowrie hit a line shot, but it was straight at Dirks, who held onto  the ball for the second out.

Scherzer recorded his tenth K when he struck out Donaldson, ending the sixth on his 95th pitch.

Words fail me, Kurt.

Colon was pulled by A's manager Bob Melvin after six innings and 99 pitches. Replacing him was right-hander Dan Otero. The Tigers didn't make Otero work hard, going down quickly in a 1-2-3 inning.

Jim Leyland had the bullpen stirring in the bottom of the seventh, both Drew Smyly and Al Alburquerque warming up. Leading off,  Moss was fooled, but the resulting high chopper was over the head of Scherzer. Jose Iglesias tried to replicate his ridiculously good defensive play from earlier this year, but his snap throw was high, pulling Fielder off the bag. It was still a crazy good play, but lightening didn't strike twice.

Scherzer lost his shutout when Cespedes crushed a 2-2 fastball, sending a no-doubt shot over the wall in deep left (MLB.com video). What had been a semi-comfortable 3-0 lead was now a 3-2 nail-biter. Worse, there was still no one out.

Soon, there were three out. Scherzer recovered nicely, retiring the next three A's in order on a lazy fly ball, a pop up and his 11th strikeout. A pitch count of 118, odds were good Scherzer's night was over.

Otero was pulled by A's manager Bob Melvin after getting the first out of the eighth. Lefty Sean Doolittle came on to retire Fielder. Martinez kept the inning alive when Cepedes was unable to catch his line drive, a play he should have made. The ball ate up Cespedes, glancing off his glove and rolling to the wall. The error allowed Martinez to reach second.

But Avila could not make the A's pay, striking out.

The Tigers clinging to a one run lead, Leyland made his first moves of the game. Drew Smyly was on the mound, Ramon Santiago in as a defensive replacement for Cabrera.

Melvin countered by pinch hitting right-hand swinging Alberto Callaspo. Callaspo never took the bat off his shoulder, striking out on four pitches. after getting ahead in the count 1-2, Smyly let Crisp off the hook, allowing the tying run on base by walking him.

Smyly bounced back to strike out Lowrie, the 13th Athletic to go down on strikes. A runner on first, two down and needing four outs to end the game, Leyland called on Joaquin Benoit to face Donaldson. The Tigers' best reliever was facing the A's MVP candidate.

Winner? Benoit.

Donaldson popped up in front of the plate, Benoit made the Phil Coke-esque finger point, Fielder making the catch. A huge, huge out. Still, there was three more to go.

Jhonny Peralta made a pinch hitting appearance in the ninth, batting for Driks. This confused the the TBS announcers to no end, who were flabbergasted the Tigers would exchange defense for offense ... not realizing Don Kelly would be in left for the bottom of the ninth.

Regardless, the Tigers were unable to tack on an insurance run. Doolittle had combined with Otero to hold the Tigers hitless over the final three innings.

The game now rode on the right arm of Benoit.

Obviously, Kelly was now in the game playing left field, while Benoit had to face the A's four thru six hitters in Moss, Cespedes and Reddick.

Moss would strike out on pitch in the dirt, which bounced off Avila with so much backspin, Benoit had to make the throw to first. I have never seen a K 1-3 before. You can't predict baseball.

Benoit ate up Cespedes with change ups. He struck him out on three pitches, the 15th K victim of the night.

The count 2-2, Reddick waved at a breaking ball for strike three for the third time, becoming the 16th and last strikeout of the night for Tigers' pitching. An absolutely NAILS Benoit had just struck out the side, slamming the door on the A's.

GAME OVER!

Your final score is Tigers 3, A's 2.

WHEW.

It may have been a nail-biter and closer than we would have liked, but the Tigers accomplished what they needed to do out west. Win one game. A victory Saturday would be, as they say, icing on the cake.

ALDS game two features one of the best pitchers of his generation facing a talented rookie. Justin Verlander toes the slab for the Tigers, Sonny Gray gets the start for the A's.

Gray was the A's top pick in the 2011 amateur draft, He ascended to the big leagues fairly quickly, joining the A's rotation for good in early August. He pitched very well down the stretch, posting a 4-1 record with a 2.27 ERA. In his ten career starts, Gray has allowed more than two runs just twice.

Verlander has been the number one starter in four of the last five playoff series for the Tigers. That changed thanks to Max Scherzer's breakout season and Verlander's inconsistency in 2013. But he looked like the Verlander of 2011-12 for much of September, with a 2.27 ERA in his last six regular season starts. Verlander is coming off two excellent starts, pitching a combined 12 scoreless innings, striking out 22 in the process.

First pitch for ALDS game 2 at the O.co is scheduled for 9 PM.

WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH:


Source: FanGraphs

BULLETS:

The MLB Network pregame show featured Hawk Harrelson with the will to make viewer's eyes bleed.

813040357_medium

The A's mascot is an elephant. It's quite fitting, being A's fans have have the memory of one. Seems they have not forgotten Al Alburquerque kissing a baseball.

At least MLB has their timing down. Craig Kimbrel struck out Carl Crawford to end the Braves - Dodgers games just 30 seconds or so before the first pitch in Oakland.

The Tigers' three first inning runs equaled that they scored in  27 innings to end the season against the Marlins. The inning was also historic for the Tigers.

Torii Hunter, sneaking a look at the TBS camera.

Torii_medium

Meanwhile in the Tigers' radio booth, Jim Price was in post season form.

As for the TBS broadcast crew, they're so boring I'm goZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ.

While the game progressed, Colon jokes never, ever stopped.

The only thing more useless than the on-screen pitch tracking of TBS ... who am I kidding? There's nothing more useless than pitch tracking which appears to be from another game altogether.

Sorry, Max. I'm still giggling over this...

Give credit where credit is due. The A's took off the tarps off the upper deck and Oakland fans filled it. The O.co was sold out, 48,401 in attendance. It's the largest crowd the old Oakland Alameda County Coliseum had seen since 2004.

But A's fans lose credit thanks to the evil vuvuzelas.

Vuvuzuela_medium

THREE ROARS:

Max Scherzer: Made just one mistake on the home run to Cespedes. Otherwise, Scherzer was brilliant. I'll take tonight's game from every single one of the Tigers' starters, please.

Joaquin Benoit: Forced to face the middle of the A's order, the difficultly level of Benoit's four out save was scary high. He made it look easy.

Alex Avila: Two hits, the biggest of which was a first inning single which gave the Tigers their winning margin. Also took a wicked foul off his mask, giving everyone pause. But Avila shook it off, finishing the game behind the plate.

BONUS ROARS:

Miguel Cabrera: Gave the Tigers and their fans a huge lift with his RBI single in the first. Hit the ball hard in his first two at bats, which is a good sign.

Victor Martinez: Two hits and a run scored. His double kept the first inning alive and set up Avila's RBI.

Drew Smyly: Solid in relief, striking out a pair.

THREE HISSES:

The TBS announcing crew: This is an example of their logic. The TBS announcers called the Hunter play stupid, yet said sending Martinez "looked good." God help me, my flat panel is going thru a wall before the end of the series.

Tom Brookens: WHAT. WERE. YOU. THINKING?

Andy Dirks: Not one of the Neck's finer performances. Dirks was 0-3 with a K at the plate, while making a pair of questionable plays in left.

ROLL CALL:

Total comments 2,681
Total commenters 72
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Story URLs http://www.blessyouboys.com/2013/10/4/4803472/alds-game-1-tigers-at-athletics-9-37-p-mhttp://www.blessyouboys.com/2013/10/4/4804540/alds-game-1-overflow-tigers-at-athletics/in/4567545http://www.blessyouboys.com/2013/10/4/4804704/alds-game-1-overflow-2-tigers-at-athletics/in/4567545http://www.blessyouboys.com/2013/10/5/4804840/alds-game-1-overflow-3-tigers-at-athletics/in/4567545

TOP TEN COMMENTERS:

1 RedWingedLigerFan 170
2 FrogTownFan 149
3 SanDiegoMick 147
4 frisbeepilot 111
5 rbbaker 101
6 Alex Baker 96
7 BadCompany22 93
8 J_the_Man 90
9 JerseyTigerFan 90
10 Rob Rogacki 78

TOP RECS:

8 RedWingedLigerFan BULLETS!!!
8 rbbaker [no title]
7 rbbaker [no title]
6 42jeff Welcome to the Coliseum
6 NCDee EVERYBODY BREATHE!!!
5 Chris Estrada U gotta love playoff baseball!!! I'll take this over 119 losses any year!! LOL
5 J_the_Man [no title]
4 rbbaker okay, booze isn't enough
4 rbbaker I give you a window
4 welcome to good burger Good job Smyly
4 NCDee I'm dying of cute overload
4 stevenyc [no title]
4 rbbaker All beers previously stated have been approved

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