OAKLAND, Calif. – Coco Crisp made a leaping grab in center field to rob Prince Fielder of a likely home run and back Brett Anderson's scoreless start, and the Oakland Athletics led the Detroit Tigers 2-0 through six innings Tuesday night in Game 3 of their AL division series.
Detroit led the best-of-five matchup 2-0.
Trying to avoid a sweep and extend Oakland's season at least one more day, Yoenis Cespedes hit an RBI single off Anibal Sanchez to put the A's ahead in the first and Seth Smith homered in the fifth. Each highlight ignited a gold towel-waving crowd announced at 37,090, only the eighth sellout at the Coliseum all season.
Anderson kept the Tigers scoreless behind a sharp breaking ball and a strong defense in his first start since injuring his right side falling awkwardly off the mound at Detroit on Sept. 19. The A's have won six straight at home and will need another surprising sweep in a season full of them.
After dropping the first two games in Detroit, Oakland's return home seemed to light a spark.
Anderson needed only eight pitches — seven for strikes — to get through the first and whip the green-and-gold clad crowd into a frenzy. In the bottom of the inning, Cespedes singled to center to drive home Crisp and give the A's a lead. But with two runners on and no outs, Sanchez came back to strike out Brandon Moss looking and get Josh Reddick to ground into a double play.
Crisp, who had a two-run error trying to make a basket catch on Miguel Cabrera's fly in Game 2, stole a long ball from Fielder leading off the second. Crisp jumped against the wall, reached his glove at the top of the fence and made the grab, forcing a stunned Fielder to stop his trot before second base.
In the fifth, Smith sent a 93 mph fastball from Sanchez high and far enough to center where nobody could catch, giving a light fist pump rounding first. The home run was Smith's third in 15 career at-bats against Sanchez, a midseason acquisition from the Miami Marlins who was steady down the stretch.
Anderson, also making his postseason debut, got Omar Infante to ground into a double play to end the third. The lefty looked in control from the opening pitch, just as he had in six starts after a 14-month absence recovering from elbow ligament-replacement surgery before injuring his oblique.
With fans growing louder after every strike, Anderson also seemed to be growing stronger. He got Austin Jackson to ground out to short and struck out Infante and Cabrera swinging on sliders in a 13-pitch sixth.
Oakland certainly needed Anderson — and everyone on the roster — in peak form to avoid another disappointing playoff sweep.
The Tigers swept Oakland out of its last playoff series — in four games of the 2006 AL championship series. None of the current A's were on the team then, and only two were even in the organization.
The task is daunting: win three straight at home.
Then again, this A's team has accomplished some impressive feats all season, including a major league-best 14 walk-off wins — all celebrated with whipped-cream pies.
Last week, they took three in a row from the two-time reigning AL champion Texas Rangers to win the AL West crown on the final day of the season. The A's became the first team in major league history to win the division or pennant after trailing by five or more games with fewer than 10 to go. They were five back of the Rangers with nine remaining.
If necessary, rookie right-hander A.J. Griffin is scheduled to start for Oakland in Game 4 against Max Scherzer on Wednesday. Game 5 would be in Oakland on Thursday.