Colon recovers after three-run first, but A's can't
A's ace struggles with fastball command against aggressive Tigers lineup
OAKLAND -- For a moment Friday, Bartolo Colon seemed more likely to fool his catcher than the Tigers' hitters.
The A's Game 1 starter lacked his normal pinpoint accuracy in the top of the first inning, repeatedly firing fastballs high in the zone. The Tigers feasted on Colon's offerings, scoring all three of their runs in the opening frame before Colon settled down to throw five scoreless innings and exit after six with no further damage.
Colon's resurgence, however, came only after catcher Stephen Vogt received a foul tip off the mask, and in the end it didn't matter, as the A's lost 3-2 to fall behind Detroit in the best-of-five American League Division Series. Game 2 is here on Saturday night (6 PT, TBS).
Colon, widely known for relying on well-located fastballs, didn't throw an offspeed pitch until the 11th batter he faced. Seven Tigers batters came to the plate in the first, with Austin Jackson doubling, Torii Hunter reaching on a hit-by-pitch -- Colon's first of the season -- and Miguel Cabrera singling up the middle for Detroit's first run of the game.
"After that, I thought I threw a good game," Colon said through interpreter Ariel Prieto.
The Tigers scored twice more with a double by Victor Martinez and single by Alex Avila in consecutive at-bats to cap off the inning, and they would've scored once more if not for a fantastic run-saving throw by Josh Reddick -- Oakland's reigning Gold Glove Award-winning right fielder -- in the sixth.
A similar defensive showing by first baseman Daric Barton in the first inning may have prevented the Tigers' third run from scoring. Avila's two-out single snuck under Barton's glove into right field, a play that, compared to others he's made this season, seemed almost routine.
"I think if I dove, I could have caught it," Barton said. "The ground was a little bit quicker than normal. It was just one of those balls where it was hit in between. I went after it standing up and just ran out of room."
Colon, the A's 40-year-old ace, hasn't defeated the Tigers since April 13, 2003 -- when he was a spirited 29-year-old. The 18-game winner became the oldest pitcher in Oakland history to start a postseason game with his ninth career Division Series start Friday, but, at least for an inning, the ageless spark that has carried Colon and the A's throughout the season was not to be found.
Colon gave up three runs total in his final three regular-season games. On Friday, he matched that total in the first inning.
"They got some key hits and took advantage of a couple mistakes in the first inning. Other than that, he was the same Bartolo we've seen this year," Vogt said. "Obviously, it looks different when you put up a three-spot in the first inning. People are going to ask, 'What's wrong with Bartolo?' Nothing's wrong with Bartolo. They had a good game plan. They were uber aggressive and took advantage of a couple pitches up in the zone."
Jeff Kirshman is an associate reporter for MLB.com.