Taking control of the ALDS, the Oakland Athletics rode three home runs to a 6-3 road victory over the Detroit Tigers. Up 2-1 in the series, the A's can move on to the ALCS against the winner of the Red Sox - Rays series with one more victory. The Tigers' offensive futility continued, having scored in just two of the 27 innings played to this point of the series.
A's starter Jarrod Parker was nicked up for a three-run fourth, but hung around long enough to earn the victory. Parker earned the win with five innings of work, allowing the three runs and five hits.The A's bullpen slammed the door, Dan Otero, Sean Doolittle and Balfour combining for four scoreless innings of relief. Balfour earned his first save of the ALDS.
In Game 3, the Tigers needed Anibal Sanchez to replicate the Games 1 and 2 performances of Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, respectively. Instead, Sanchez had one of his worst outings as a Tiger, serving up three home runs in just 4 1/3 innings. A not-sharp Sanchez was rocked for six total runs, five earned, eight hits, striking out six.
The Tigers did receive a sterling performance from rookie lefty Jose Alvarez, tossing three scoreless innings in relief of Sanchez. But it was too little, too late.
Just as they did in taking 3-of-4 games from the Tigers in August, the A's used the home run ball to overwhelm the home team. Brandon Moss, Josh Reddick and Seth Smith all went yard, accounting for four of the A's six runs. Coco Crisp didn't homer, but he led the A's with three hits (two for extra bases) and drove in a run with a sacrifice fly.
The Tigers could muster just seven hits, scoring all three of their runs in the fourth. Victor Martinez drove in the Tigers' first run since Game 1 with an RBI double. Jhonny Peralta got the start in left field and added a two-RBI single. But almost as soon as the Tigers' offense had been found, it just as quickly disappeared again. The A's bullpen held the Tigers' bats to a pair of singles from the fifth inning on.
The refrain you'll often hear about the postseason is "it's all about the pitching." But in the Tigers' case, their complete and utter lack of offense has them on the edge of elimination, falling far, far short of their World Series expectations.
The offense's flame out can't all be blamed on the Cabrera injury. No one stepped up in his stead since Cabrera's power diminished to point of having completely dissipated. Fingers can be pointed at the entire lineup. Austin Jackson has become a liability at the plate, striking out seven times in three games. Torii Hunter has been all or nothing, feast or famine, and is on the famine side of the ledger in the playoffs. When he does hit, Prince Fielder has not done so for power. What Jhonny Peralta may give you at the plate, he can take away by playing out of position. Save for Alex Avila's RBI single in Game 1, there's been little to no help from the role players.
At this point, there are no cards left for Jim Leyland to play. There's no one to pull off the bench who can come to the rescue. What the Tigers have is what they have. For the vast majority of the season, what they had offensively was more than enough. The question is, where did it all go?
A season which started with sky-high expectations is now one game away being thought of as a massive disappointment. It's one thing to go down fighting. But thanks to an offense showing as much power as a Yugo with a seized engine, the Tigers may go down with both hands tied behind their back.
It's now do or die for the Tigers.
Anibal Sanchez's first pitch to Coco Crisp was a ball outside. His second was lined to right center, Torii Hunter unable to make a diving catch, the ball rolling to the scoreboard. Luckily, Austin Jackson got to the liner quickly enough in order to hold Crisp at second.
Not the start I was hoping to see.
Crisp advanced to third on Jed Lowrie's fly ball to right. Hunter fought with and finally won his battle with the wind. Going into the season, I never expected it would be Hunter who would scare me the most in the outfield.
Brendan Moss worked an 0-2 count into an eight-pitch free pass, giving the A's hottest hitter, Yoenis Cespedes, a shot at a two-out RBI. Sanchez ate Cespedes up with high heat, recording the Tigers' first strikeout of the game, stranding a pair.
Good sign: Sanchez pitched out of trouble, holding the A's scoreless in the inning in which he's given up the most runs.
Bad sign: Sanchez needed 18 pitches to end the first, not helped by the A's tendency to work counts and foul balls off.
Foreshadowing doom - Sanchez's pitch count would become an issue as the game proceeded.
In the Tigers' last six playoff games, four in the 2012 World Series and two in the 2013 ALDS, they have scored just nine runs and had been shutout three times. The trend continued at the start of ALDS Game 3.
Austin Jackson has just plain stopped hitting. Hell, he's stopped making contact altogether. He led off the bottom half of the inning by striking out for the fifth straight time and sixth in seven at bats. Miguel Cabrera turned out to be the only Tiger to hit the ball hard, yanking a hard single down the third-base line. But Fielder's playoff disappearing act continued, popping up to end the inning.
Top of the second, Jhonny Peralta got his first test as a playoff left fielder. Seth Smith on first with a lead-off single, Josh Reddick sent a fly to deep left. Peralta handed it well, making the catch on the warning track as the sellout Comerica Park crowd let out a very load roar in appreciation.
Peralta recorded his second putout of the game to end the third inning, calling off Jackson on Eric Sogard's can of corn to right center.
Jhonny explaining how to play outfield to Austin in the dugout.— PCB (@PhilCokesBrain) October 7, 2013
Jhonny Peralta will get direction from Austin Jackson in the field, says Jim Kaat. Maybe Peralta can return the favor with hitting tips.— Ian Casselberry (@iancass) October 7, 2013
Those hitting tips didn't work in the second. Peralta was the "2" in a 1-2-3 bottom of the second, the Tigers scoreless skein reaching 19 straight innings.
Sanchez found himself in a two-on, none-out jam, and almost pitched out of it. Crisp led off with a single and stole second. Donaldson reached via a base on balls. After striking out Lowrie and Moss, Sanchez looked to be out of trouble on Cespedes' hard ground ball to Cabrera. But his fundamentals failed him. Cabrera didn't get in front of the ball as it took an unexpected hop, skipping off his glove and into left field. The error allowed Crisp to score the game's first run, giving the A's a 1-0 lead.
Sanchez would strike out the side, but the A's were up a run on Cabrera's miscue. Worse, the A's were running up the pitch count, Sanchez at an elevated 64 through three innings.
Meanwhile, A's starter Jarrod Parker entered the inning with a pitch count of just 24. Ten pitches later, Parker had retired the side, having thrown 30 fewer pitches on the day compared to Sanchez. The Tigers' scoreless inning streak was now at 20 innings and counting.
Top of the fourth, Reddick led off the inning with a solo shot, a fly ball into the wind which just kept carrying into the right field seats.
A frustrated fan base started booing, which continued when Saturday's hero for the A's, Stephen Vogt, lined a triple to the scoreboard in right center. Crisp's sacrifice fly to medium-left plated Vogt, pushing the A's lead to 3-0. Peralta's heave was mediocre at best, with very little steam on it, taking very soft bounce before getting to the plate. Vogt beat the throw fairly easily.
Time to panic? Yep.
To start the bottom of the fourth, Hunter actually worked the count on Parker before reaching base with a single to left. Cabrera followed up by hitting the ball hard ... but to the wrong part of the park. He went the opposite way, his fly ball against the wind in deep right center, Crisp making the catch in front of the scoreboard.
Fielder proceeded to give the Tigers their first scoring opportunity by lining an outside breaking ball to left, Hunter aggressively taking third on Cespedes.
It would be Victor Martinez who FINALLY got the Tigers' on the scoreboard, slapping a grounder past a diving Moss into the right-field corner. Hunter jogged home with the Tigers' first run since the first inning of Game 1. Tom Brookens held Fielder up at third, Martinez cruising into second with a double.
A stadium which had been as quiet as a mortuary was now rocking, the nervous crowd on their feet.
Two runners in scoring position with one out, this was the exact scenario as to why Peralta was in the lineup. The former shortstop came through with a huge hit which sent Comerica into hysterics, a humpback liner to left dropping for a two-RBI single.
Parker would pitch out of further trouble, stranding Peralta at second when Omar Infante bounced out. But the Tigers had countered the A's three runs with three of their own, knotting the game at 3-all.
Just as the crowd had gotten fired up, the A's deflated them almost as quickly. One down in the fifth, Moss yanked Sanchez's awful hanging 2-2 breaking pitch high to right, Hunter not even bothering to move as ball sailed deep into the stands. Furious with himself, Sanchez screamed obscenities as soon as the ball left the bat. Moss had given the A's their second big fly of the game, retaking the lead at 4-3.
Rick Porcello (or as the Jim Kaat called him on MLB Netowork, Por-chello) and Jose Alvarez were warming up, but not quickly enough. Sanchez was still in game despite not having his best stuff and being visibly upset. Cespedes on first with one out (and Sanchez throwing to first EIGHT times), Smith smoked a fastball into the bullpen in left center. The two-run shot ended Sanchez's day and gave the A's a 6-3 lead.
Forced to make a move, Jim Leyland called on Jose Alvarez. The rookie lefty got out of the inning without further damage. As was predicted before the series, if Alvarez was pitching, the situation was likely dire.
The Tigers were unable to counter the A's three-run outburst in the top of the fifth. Hunter's "meh" ALDS continued, bouncing into an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play.
Facing a lefty heavy lineup, at least Alvarez had stepped up. Top of the sixth, the A's went down in order for the first time on the day.
Bottom of the sixth, A's manager Bob Melvin elected to put the game in the capable hands of his bullpen, pulling Parker after five innings. Right-hander Dan Otero took over, facing the meat of the Tigers' order. Fielder reached on a single, but was quickly eliminated when the A's turned their second double play in as many innings. Martinez bounced into a 3-6 twin killing, the sellout crowd groaning audibly as the offense continued to flail away.
To this point of the ALDS, the Tigers had scored runs in just two innings in the three games. They were showing no signs of breaking out of their slump.
Shockingly, Alvarez was rolling. The seventh inning was another of the 1-2-3 variety. Alvarez had retired eight of the nine batters he had faced, including seven in a row. Alvarez had stopped the bleeding, but could the Tigers' offense recapitulate?
Not in the bottom of the seventh. It was another futile inning for the Tigers' offense. Infante did single with two down, but Jose Iglesias bounced out. The game headed into the eighth with the Tigers down three runs at 6-3.
Alvarez's outstanding outing ended after he had retired eight straight, removed for Jose Veras with one down and no one on in the top of the eighth.
Veras completed the third straight 1-2-3 inning for the Tigers' bullpen. The much derided patchwork bullpen had been nails, while the Tigers' much lauded and highly paid offense was still nowhere to be found.
The A's went with Sean Doolittle in the bottom of the eighth. Jackson's brutal series got that much worse, leading off with his seventh strike out in three games. Hunter got the crowd stirring with a single, but Cabrera took the wind out of their sails when he popped up the first pitch Doolittle served up.
Fielder ended the eighth inning with a liner to short. The Tigers were now three outs away from finding themselves in a win or go home game.
Needing to keep the A's off the scoreboard, Veras got into trouble when Crisp led off with a double and Donaldson reached on an infield single to short. But Veras bore down, retiring the next three in order, including two via strikeouts.
The Tigers' bullpen had totally shut down the A's. Alvarez and Veras wrapped up their day having tossed 4 2/3 scoreless innings.
Bottom of the ninth, a shouting match started between Grant Balfour on the mound for the A's and Martinez at the plate. Martinez fouled off a pitch, Balfour said something loud enough for the on-field mics to pick up, Martinez (possibly trying to fire up his teammates) replied in kind. Balfour LOUDLY countered with "#@#@$$%#" and the benches cleared as Martinez started walking toward the mound.
Then ... Baseball fight.
Stern words were exchanged, no one was ejected, warnings were issued, and the game proceeded to its inevitable conclusion (NSFW audio in the video below).
And what, exactly, ticked off Balfour?
Balfour said V-Mart was looking at him, so he yelled. Are they 7-year-olds on a car trip?— Dave Hogg (@Stareagle) October 7, 2013
Martinez hit the ball hard, but right at Reddick for the first out. As a pissed-off Martinez headed back to the dugout and passed by Balfour, Daric Barton and home plate umpire Gary Darling acted as traffic cops. In the end, it was much ado about nothing, much like the Tigers' playoff offense.
Peralta worked a full count before striking out on what would have been ball four, a shoulder-high fastball.
Two down, Avila also worked a dull count, but he managed to extend the game by drawing a walk. But that was it for the Tigers. Infante flew out to right, putting the Tigers' season on the brink.
Your final score is A's 6, Tigers 3.
Damn. Damn, DAMN.
The pitching match up for ALDS Game 4 will be the second time in three games an A's rookie will face a Tigers' veteran. This time around it's A's right-hander Dan Straily (12-9, 3.94 ERA in 2013) taking on Doug Fister (14-9, 3.67 ERA in 2013).
Straily had an excellent rookie season, but really came into his own down the stretch run. The A's didn't lose in his five starts between August 28 and September 19, Strialy posting a 4-0 record and 2.15 ERA during the streak. That stretch started with a six-inning, one-run performance in a 14-4 victory over the Tigers.
In his last appearance against the A's, Fister was the losing pitcher in that 14-4 loss. It was easily his worst game of 2013, raked for 13 hits and seven runs in just five innings. But in his five September starts after being shelled by the A's, Fister posted a solid 3.09 ERA.
Tuesday's first pitch at Comerica Park is scheduled for a far more reasonable 5 PM.
WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH:
A 1:07 PM first pitch on a Monday afternoon proves MLB is run by idiots. The Tigers and A's played a late night game on Saturday, then plugged into the earliest Monday start of the afternoon. A 10 AM West Coast start for a West Coast team is beyond ridiculous, let alone the headaches it caused Tigers fans who are in the middle of their workdays. It's patently unfair to both teams and fan bases. There is no reason other than greed as to why MLB couldn't stagger the start times differently. The NBA and NHL can have two playoffs games taking place at the same time, why not MLB?
The scoreboard just asked Detroit to get loud and they were like, it's 1:48 p.m. on a Monday.— anthony fenech (@anthonyfenech) October 7, 2013
As for MLB Network's pregame? It was 90 minutes of Harold Reynold and Kevin Millar yelling. Worse, they ended the show with a deep analysis of...
MLB Network breaking down where Bob Melvin stands in the dugout. I thought I covered ridiculous things.— PCB (@PhilCokesBrain) October 7, 2013
KILL. ME. NOW.
Long-time fan favorite Carlos Guillen threw out the first pitch. Anyone but CB Bucknor would have called it a strike.
Carlos Guillen throws out the first pitch and it was a bullet.— Mario Impemba (@mario_impemba) October 7, 2013
The one problem with home playoff games is they tend to bring out the bandwagon types.
These guys behind me are talking about how Jim should put Martinez at 3rd. WAT. GTFO. DFA YOU.— Ben Roth (@rothben) October 7, 2013
First MLB Network gaffe of the day came in the second inning:
@blessyouboys Announcers just called Porcello "Porchello"— Randy Charboneau (@randycharb) October 7, 2013
MLB's postseason TV reached a new low in the third. MLB Network's feed died for several minutes, sending fans (including myself) into a frenzy. Their explanation? The sun went out.
Please be aware of potential interruptions due to sun outages: http://t.co/KIkJTo1Aii— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) October 7, 2013
The picture came back midway through the inning. Someone much have found a sun-lighter.
Jim Kaat on the MLB Network after Miguel Cabrera's error:
"He may let in one, but could drive in three."
Unfortunately, Cabrera hasn't had a three-RBI game in over six weeks. August 23, to be exact. Post-error, Cabrera was caught on camera seemingly complaining about the infield causing a bad hop. All well and good, but still doesn't excuse the fact he wasn't in front of the ball.
The Tigers' down 6-3 in the fifth, MLB Network decided to go with one of the worst TV "innovations" ever, the in-game interview from the dugout.
I DON'T CARE WHERE SONNY GRAY LEARNED TO THROW A CURVEBALL— Rational Tigers Fan (@Rational_Tigers) October 7, 2013
This is the world's worst mustache on a 12-year-old. pic.twitter.com/Ea8UsiDnOA— World of Isaac (@WorldofIsaac) October 7, 2013
Despite the idiotic early Monday start time, Tigers fans came through. Game 3 was a sellout, 43, 973 in attendance.
Post game, the news wasn't any better.
Torii Hunter just headed into the X-ray room at Comerica. Wonder if its from the early diving miss in RF.— John Niyo (@JohnNiyo) October 7, 2013
Hunter's shoulder was heavily wrapped in ice during interviews. I'd have to guess odds are 100% he'll be in the lineup for an elimination game.
Jose Alvarez: Was the best Tigers' pitcher of the day, holding the A's hitless in three innings of work.
Jose Veras: Followed Alvarez with 1 2/3 shutout innings.
Jhonny Peralta: Put in the lineup for his offense, Peralta came through with a game-tying two-RBI single in the fourth. It was the last hurrah for the Tigers' offense.
Anibal Sanchez: The AL ERA leader had not allowed more than one home run in a game this season. Sanchez allowed three today. The last time Sanchez allowed three big flies was in his Tigers debut, July 28, 2012. He couldn't have picked a worse time to have one his worst starts of the season.
Austin Jackson: Since leading off Game 1 with a single, Jackson is 0-for-10 in 11 plate appearances with a walk and seven strikeouts. He struck out twice today, part of an 0-for-3 afternoon.
The Tigers' offense: They've played 27 innings and have scored in just two. Six runs in three games won't win you a playoff series.
Miguel Cabrera: Singled, but was otherwise ineffective at the plate. His third-inning error also cost the Tigers a run. His show of anger in the dugout, apparently blaming a bad hop, didn't help matters. Hitting .250 with no power, injuries have turned him into just another guy instead of one the best hitters of his generation.
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There weren't many candidates to pick from in Game 2's 1-0 loss, but one Tiger stood out. Justin Verlander put on a vintage performance, allowing just four hits and striking out 11 over seven shutout innings. Verlander walked away with the PotG poll, taking 94% of the vote.