One down, two to go.
After a brutal two games in Detroit, the A’s returned home to the friendly confines of the O.co Coliseum. And they looked all the part of one of the toughest teams to beat at home in all of baseball, cruising to a 2-0 victory over the Detroit Tigers in Game 3 of the ALDS.
The A’s still have their backs against the wall in this series, but they took one step closer to evening things up with the win last night. And they don’t have to worry about setting foot in Comerica Park at all again this season.
That’s the beauty of the 2-3 Division Series format that is in place for 2012. Just a few days ago, many A’s fans – myself included – were complaining about how unfair it is that the team with homefield advantage had to start on the road. Now, I’m sure glad the next game (or two) are in Oakland.
The road vs. home challenges were no more clear than in the 2nd inning of last night’s game, when Coco Crisp ran full speed and jumped at the wall to rob Prince Fielder of a game-tying home run. This came just two days after he dropped a sinking popup in Detroit – a pivitol play in the game that swung the momentum the Tigers’ direction. In Detroit, Coco got a bad read on the ball off the bat and a late jump on the ball. In Oakland, however, he covered a massive amount of ground in an outfield he knows very well, and timed everything perfectly.
And how money was Brett Anderson? Just filthy, despite sitting for three weeks, still nursing a sore oblique, and not having his best control of his pitches. He still dominated for six innings, giving up zero runs and just three hits, while striking out six and walking two.
And after Anderson was done, Bob Melvin proved again why he’s the AL Manager of the Year with some masterful bullpen management. Usually he goes with Sean Doolittle in the 7th, Ryan Cook in the 8th, and Grant Balfour in the 9th. But this time, he went Cook, Doolittle, then Balfour. Why? It was all about where the Tigers were in the lineup. Jim Leyland’s mix-and-match guys were at the bottom of the order, and the Tigers’ lineup was set up for facing the lefty Anderson, so the right-handed hitters – Avisail Garcia and Gerald Laird – were the #8 and #9 hitters. By having Cook go in the against the team’s #4 through #7 hitters, Leyland was not going to be pinch hitting for anyone then. And then with the southpaw Doolittle going in the 8th, Garcia and Laird were going to stay in the game, while Quentin Berry and Alex Avila stayed on the bench. Basically they were moves to keep Leyland from making moves. And when you have Doolittle, a lefty who can throw gas past righty hitters just as well as lefty hitters, you don’t have to worry about right/left matchups from the pitching standpoint.
So we will have a baseball game to watch tonight. A.J. Griffin will be on the hill for the A’s and we’ll see if he can step up and throw a good game after a couple of shaky outings, much like Travis Blackley did when he stepped up in Game 161 against the Rangers. It’s the playoffs and anything can happen. Go A’s!!