Comforts of home: Anderson, A's force Game 4

Lefty fires six shutout frames; Crisp, Cespedes make dazzling plays

October 9th, 2012

OAKLAND -- The A's need their fans more than their fans need them.

As one unit, they faced elimination on Tuesday, wondering just how much magic was left in this place. The left-field bleacher crew pounded on drums, its 30,000-plus neighbors relentlessly waving yellow rally towels for the better part of three hours, as the Oakland Coliseum once again transformed into a sanctuary of hope.

That much was theirs just six days ago, when the A's defied all odds in front of their raucous home crowd, winning their sixth in a row and third straight against a Rangers team that surrendered a division crown that wasn't meant to be worn by the green and gold. Again the A's faced the doubters on Tuesday, following two losses in Detroit over the weekend, hoping to silence them yet again for at least one more day.

The A's at least have that, after edging the Tigers, 2-0, to force a Game 4 in the American League Division Series and keep their storybook season alive. It was the 11th postseason shutout in A's history, secured over a Detroit team that was shut out the fewest times (twice) during the regular season.

"We're not going away," catcher Derek Norris said. "Nobody thought we could win three last week and we won three. We won today, and we plan on winning tomorrow. Then we worry about the next day."

"You picture it as you're up 2-0, no doubt. But that's not the way it is, and wherever the cards land you have to play it from there," closer Grant Balfour said. "We just wanted to go out and play today so we could play tomorrow."

Wednesday will mark the 53rd postseason game played in Oakland, which had lost each of its last six playoff games overall, all against Detroit, before Tuesday, when a 24-year-old lefty with more rehab experience than playoff experience bucked that trend.

The sight of Brett Anderson on the mound, just 20 days after he suffered a right oblique strain, well that was a slight miracle in itself. Four or five decent innings could keep his team in the ballgame, everyone thought. Then Anderson simply outdid himself.

Following a season largely defined by Tommy John rehab, the baby-faced southpaw began his playoff tenure by striking out Austin Jackson on three pitches. Anderson was off to the races from there, firing six shutout innings of two-hit ball on 80 pitches, giving the A's exactly what they needed -- and then some, despite his oblique not feeling "100 percent by any means," he acknowledged.

A's starters have allowed just four earned runs over 18 1/3 innings in this series.

"He went out there and gave it everything he had and laid it all out there," Ryan Cook said. "When a guy does that, I think it rattles around and resonates with everyone, and the whole team really feeds off that. We have confidence in whomever gets the ball out there, but it speaks big of his personality and who he is as a pitcher."

The gritty Anderson, who didn't allow a ball out of the infield after the second inning, compiled 10 ground-ball outs in his time on the bump, next to just one fly ball, and he struck out six and walked two, while his defense provided plenty help around him.

Just ask Prince Fielder.

The Tigers slugger was robbed of an extra-base hit twice by Oakland's outfield. Coco Crisp, who likely cost Oakland a win on Sunday by allowing two runs to score on a dropped ball, found redemption on Tuesday night, as he deprived Fielder of a leadoff home run in the second. In the seventh, Yoenis Cespedes made a spectacular diving grab on a ball Fielder likely assumed would amount to a double.

The A's, meanwhile, endured better luck at the plate against Tigers righty Anibal Sanchez, whom they tagged for a pair of runs in 6 1/3 innings. It was Crisp who got things going in the first, collecting a leadoff single and later scoring on Cespedes' single.

In need of a little cushion, the A's got just that from Seth Smith in the fifth, when the designated hitter launched a solo shot off Sanchez to left-center, marking his third career home run off the righty spanning 15 at-bats.

Following Anderson's heroic doings, the A's bullpen -- charged with two blown saves on Sunday -- followed suit, relying on Cook, Sean Doolittle and Balfour for three shutout innings to close the deal and guarantee the opening of the Coliseum gates on Wednesday.

"Hearing this place go crazy is a huge rush," Doolittle said. "Being back home, being in this stadium with our fans, we're feeling really good. As electric as it was last week, it was probably even better tonight. They were into it, chanting even before the first pitch of the game. It's awesome being in an environment like that.

"To be honest, we were really looking forward to this game and kind of exercising some of those demons from Detroit and getting to play in front of our fans."

Without them, it would be a lonely scene in a script that is to be continued Wednesday.