OAKLAND, Calif. – Prince Fielder halted his home run trot when Coco Crisp snagged his fly at the top of the center-field wall in the second. He seemed stunned when shortstop Stephen Drew robbed a single from him in the fourth, and he stopped his sprint around first when Yoenis Cespedes made a diving catch in left in the seventh.
After grounding into a game-inning double play in the ninth, Fielder and the rest of the Detroit Tigers had to hold off on the most important thing: another celebration.
Fielder finished 0 for 4 to highlight another poor performance at the plate for the Tigers, losing 2-0 to the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday night in Game 3 of their AL division series.
Detroit leads the best-of-five series 2-1. Game 4 is Wednesday night in Oakland.
The Tigers' high-priced lineup could squeeze only four hits out of Brett Anderson, three relievers and the rest of the low-budget A's to spoil a solid start from fellow playoff newcomer Anibal Sanchez. Even more troubling, they have only one RBI off a hit — a solo home run by Alex Avila in Game 1 — in four games of this series.
"That's a little freaky, to be honest with you," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said before Game 4. "And we're going to have to do better than that."
Even the balls Detroit hit hard didn't drop.
Prince, who signed a $214 million, nine-year deal as a free agent from Milwaukee in the offseason, had perhaps the most frustrating night of all of Detroit's sluggers.
Crisp jumped against the padding, reached his glove at the top of the wall and made the grab leading off the second, forcing a stunned Fielder to stop his trot before second base. Crisp, who had a two-run error trying to make a basket catch on Miguel Cabrera's fly in Game 2, flexed his arms and screamed, "Whoo!"
In the fourth, Drew dug out a grounder in the hole at short and threw across his body to nab Fielder at first. Then Cespedes, moving in and to his left, fully extended for a diving catch to get Fielder for the first out of the seventh. And after Cabrera singled in the ninth, Fielder hit a weak grounder to short for an easy double play.
What a Bay Area bummer for Detroit.
Trying to avoid a sweep and extend Oakland's season at least one more day, Cespedes hit an RBI single off 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.
Sanchez, a midseason acquisition from the Miami Marlins who was steady down the stretch, allowed five hits and two walks in 6 1-3 innings. He struck out three.
Detroit's recent history of celebration at the Coliseum seemed to be only a matter of time after taking the first two of the series at home.
The Tigers clinched the AL Central last year in Oakland. They also swept the A's out of their 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 seemed 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. Now its Detroit trying to avoid the same fate.
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, and Detroit ace Justin Verlander ready to retake the mound if necessary.
Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP