Coco Crisp's critical error loomed large in Game 2, but his defensive gem Tuesday helped the Oakland Athletics save their season.
The fleet-footed center fielder stole a home run from Prince Fielder and scored a run in the A's 2-0 victory over the Detroit Tigers in Game 3 of the ALDS.
Leading off the second inning, Fielder cracked a shot into right-center field. Crisp took off at the crack of the bat, ranged to the warning track and timed his leap perfectly as the ball looked like it was about to sail over the fence.
"You see him hit it and you just kind of put your head down a little bit because you think you just gave up a homer," A's starter Brett Anderson said.
Crisp, though, snatched the ball with his glove before crashing into the wall. The spectacular catch preserved a 1-0 Oakland advantage.
"The key to that play was he was playing deep and that enabled him to get into a spot to get up and make the catch. And it was a great catch, no doubt about it," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said.
The sensational defensive effort came after Crisp was unable to handle Miguel Cabrera's two-out flare in the seventh inning of Game 2 with a pair of runners on.
The ball glanced off the heel of Crisp's glove as he charged forward to make a basket catch and then was unable to swipe it out of the air on his subsequent diving attempt.
Two Detroit runners came in to score on the play, which gave the Tigers a 3-1 lead. The Tigers eventually won, 5-4, via a game-winning sacrifice fly in the ninth inning to take a 2-0 series lead.
The A's are looking for another improbable three-game home sweep like the one last week against the Texas Rangers, which propelled Oakland to the AL West crown.
In a season filled with walk-off wins, rallies and a plethora of whipped-cream pies, another three-game sweep will just add to an already remarkable year.
The left-hander Anderson, who was 4-2 with a 2.57 ERA in six starts following a 14-month absence recovering from elbow surgery, made his postseason debut.
In his first start since Sept. 19 due to a right oblique injury, Anderson (1-0) fanned six, scattered two hits and walked two over six shutout innings for Oakland, which snapped a six-game losing streak to the Tigers in postseason play. The A's were swept by Detroit in the 2006 ALCS.
"We always feel good about when he takes the mound," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "He goes very hard after his bullpen, so we felt confident that he was simulating that enough to go out there and pitch accordingly in a game. I don't know how you could expect more than we got out of him tonight."
Anderson outdueled Anibal Sanchez (0-1), who surrendered two runs on five hits and two walks in 6 1/3 innings to absorb the loss.
"He was a little hyped up to start with," Leyland said of Sanchez. "He pitched an excellent game for us, there's no question about that. He gave us more than a chance to win. They pitched a little better than we did tonight. It's pretty simple. But I thought Sanchez was fantastic.
Fielder, who was robbed of another potential hit by A's left fielder Yoenis Cespedes in the seventh inning and is hitting just .083 (1-for-12) in the ALDS, grounded into a game-ending double play to notch Grant Balfour's first save this postseason.
Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera has yet to tally an RBI in the series, but is batting .333 (4-for-12) with two doubles and a walk. He was 1-for-4 in the setback.
The A's plated a run in the first and another in the fifth.
Crisp led off the home first with a single to right field, advanced to second following Stephen Drew's walk and scored when Cespedes slapped a single back through the middle and past the diving second baseman Omar Infante.
"We scored a run early and kind of eased me into the game a little bit," Anderson said.
Sanchez settled down and retired nine in a row before Seth Smith golfed a low fastball and sent it over the center-field wall in the fifth inning for a 2-0 Oakland margin.
Fielder began the seventh and ripped a slicing and sinking liner into left field, but a quickly charging Cespedes came on and made the diving tumbling catch.
Oakland was 1-for-3 with runners in scoring position and left four men on base, while Detroit finished 0-for-2 with RISP and stranded four ... Tigers 16-game winner Max Scherzer will attempt to close out the series in Game 4 Wednesday night against A's rookie A.J. Griffin.