Despite layoff, Anderson proves he was ready to go
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LAND -- Let there be no doubt: Brett Anderson was ready for his Game 3 start Tuesday night.
Any concerns that a 19-day layoff while recuperating from an oblique injury might limit Anderson's effectiveness in the biggest start of his life flew right out of O.co Coliseum early in a must-win game against the Tigers in the American League Division Series.
Anderson struck out the first two batters he faced and got Miguel Cabrera to ground out in a quick top of the first, and it was smooth sailing from there as the left-hander pitched six shutout innings, allowing just two hits and two walks while striking out six.
He said the oblique is still not 100 percent, but Anderson's batting 1.000 with a victory in his first postseason start.
"You don't really know how the game's going to go until you get out there," the 24-year-old lefty said. "But I was fairly sharp those first two hitters and got some strikeouts and set the tone a little bit. I was fighting myself in the middle innings, but I was able to end on a positive note with an exclamation point in the sixth with a couple of strikeouts."
For the A's and manager Bob Melvin, seeing Anderson deliver high-quality offerings throughout his 80-pitch effort confirmed what he'd thought all along: Anderson was ready for this assignment, despite the long layoff.
"We always feel good when he takes the mound," Melviin said. "We monitored him closely as far as his bullpens went. 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."
Perhaps Anderson didn't know how he was going to feel before the first pitch, but catcher Derek Norris had a very good sense that Anderson was going to be his normal self Tuesday.
"In the bullpen right before the game, he was throwing everything where he needed to throw it, so I knew it was going to be a good night for him," Norris said.
Once it began, Anderson got the six strikeouts, but he also got plenty of groundouts. He had 10 ground-ball outs, including a double play, to just one fly-ball out.
Oh, but that one flyout was a doozy, courtesy of Coco Crisp. It took his running, jumping catch into the center-field fence for a ball hit by Prince Fielder in the second inning to save a potential homer to keep Anderson on track toward the victory.
"You see him hit it and you put your head down, you think you gave up a home run," Anderson said. "It kick-starts you to make pitches and get through the innings, and we scored early and set the tone from there."
In a different sense, it was Anderson setting the tone for the A's pitching staff, pitching the first six innings of a shutout that was finished off by relief work by Ryan Cook, Sean Doolittle and Grant Balfour.
For the relief corps, watching Anderson do his thing only helped but them on track after some rough times in Detroit.
"He was huge," Balfour said of Anderson. "Obviously, he hasn't pitched in games in a few weeks and for him to come out and be that good, he really has great stuff. There's nothing better than to have him out there with his best stuff going and to know that he's healthy now. That's given us a lot of confidence."
Said Cook: "He went out there, gave it everything he had and laid it all out there. When a guy does that, I think it rattles around and resonates with the guys in the bullpen, and everyone on the whole team really feeds off that. We have confidence in whoever gets the ball out there, but it speaks big of his personality and who he is as a pitcher."
No offense to his mates in the bullpen, but Anderson wouldn't have minded another inning or two, and he discussed that with Melvin after the sixth inning.
But, unbeknownst to Anderson, he was on a pitch limit, and the A's weren't going to exceed it.
"There was a long discussion with him because he wasn't aware that there was a pitch count with him," Melvin said.
Said Anderson: "As a competitive person in the heat of the moment you want to stay out there, especially when things are going well. But our bullpen's been tremendous, especially the back end there, so handing it over to those guys, it couldn't have been any better."
Reminded by a reporter that Balfour talked his way into the save situation on the final day of the regular season, his fourth consecutive day of pitching, Anderson knew he was outgunned by the A's closer in that category.
"That's Grant," Anderson said. "I'm sure he used a little more expletives, and things like that."
So all Anderson did was finish off his night with a self-described exclamation point, no expletives required, to keep the A's alive.
"Hopefully he gets another chance to pitch at some point," Melvin said.