Keeping A's in the ballpark no easy task for Tigers
Oakland's power-packed lineup crushes three homers to take Game 3
DETROIT -- The most powerful offense in the Major Leagues this season is found in ... Oakland? A convincing case can be made for the American League West champions and their jackhammers. Anibal Sanchez would have a hard time voicing dissent.
The A's put their muscle on display on Monday at Comerica Park, where Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder are known to light up the Motown skies with rockets. Home runs by Josh Reddick, Brandon Moss and Seth Smith rocked Sanchez in Game 3 of the AL Division Series, powering a 6-3 victory that left the AL Central kingpins one loss away from a long winter.
"If there's anything people should be surprised about, it's that we play in Oakland -- in an enormous ballpark," said Moss, who led the club with 30 homers. "We did it last year, and we did it this year. So it shouldn't be a big surprise."
If going deep is nothing new to the A's, it is rarely a headline grabber east of the East Bay of Northern California. Bob Melvin manages a talented troupe, but the names are not necessarily of the marquee variety.
Only the Orioles, in cozy Camden Yards, and the Mariners, with the fences brought in this year at Safeco Field, produced more homers in 2013 than Oakland's 186.
As Moss pointed out, the A's home yard is decidedly pitcher friendly. On the road, where statistical matters exist on even ground, the A's led the Majors with 103 homers.
The Tigers, with their celebrity sluggers, produced 15 fewer than Oakland to rank 10th in the game in road home runs. The Mariners, AL West rivals of the A's, were second with 100.
In addition to leading the Majors in homers on the road, the A's were No. 1 in slugging percentage at .430. The Tigers, at .414, were fifth.
Who knew the big power guys resided on the West Coast -- and not in Anaheim under the banner of Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, Mark Trumbo and Mike Trout?
"They don't fool us at all," said Tigers right fielder Torii Hunter, who watched the drives by Reddick and Moss sail into the crowd behind him. "Maybe people who don't know much about baseball aren't aware of them. But the Oakland A's are good. And they've got some serious power. I faced those guys a lot when I was with the Angels [for five seasons].
"The ball Seth Smith hit, going [opposite field] here, that's raw power. Moss, crazy pop. Reddick's got pop. Today they displayed it. Coco [Crisp] had 22 home runs, [Yoenis] Cespedes . They've got power up and down that lineup."
Josh Donaldson delivered 24 homers, Jed Lowrie 15 and Chris Young matched Reddick with 12. That's seven A's in double figures.
"Striking out and hitting the ball out of the park, that seems to be our working thing," said Reddick, who unloaded 32 homers in 2012. "We've got some really good hitters and some guys with power. We've had some big homers at opportune times all year. For the three guys to come up like that today is huge."
Reddick got the long ball party started with his leadoff drive in the fourth. Catcher Stephen Vogt, who drove in the winning run in Game 2, tripled to the right-center field gap and scored on Crisp's sacrifice fly for a 3-0 lead. He didn't go deep, but Crisp was the A's most productive offensive player with two doubles, a single, steal and sacrifice fly.
"We've got great power on this ballclub," Vogt said. "These guys have carried us all year. To see those three guys go deep is awesome."
After the Tigers tied it against Jarrod Parker with a three-run fourth ignited by Hunter with a leadoff single, the A's torched Sanchez in the fifth. Moss launched his blast to right, Cespedes lashed a single and Smith lost one in the seats in left-center.
"I would like to know what happened," Sanchez, the AL ERA leader said, having yielded multiple homers in a game for the first time all season.
Smith has homered four times in 22 career at-bats against Sanchez, but attached no special meaning to it.
"You need to score runs," said Smith, the former Rockies outfielder who has put in a claim on the designated hitter role by going 4-for-8 in the series. "To me, home runs are the best way. You don't have to manufacture runs. That can be tough, especially against a team like the Tigers with their pitching."
Detroit held the A's to three runs, the same number generated by the Tigers, in the Oakland split. The A's seemed happy to be back in the Motor City, where they tore it up in late August in taking three of four, missing a sweep on Hunter's walk-off homer in the finale.
The Tigers have yet to unload a home run in the series, averaging two runs per game. Their frustration seemed to boil over in the ninth in an exchange of words between DH Victor Martinez and A's reliever Grant Balfour that emptied benches and bullpens, but included no fisticuffs.
"After everything calmed down," Hunter said, "we were looking around, saying, `Why are we out here?'"
If they can't contain the formidable A's on Tuesday night and produce a little thunder of their own, the Tigers will be out of here altogether.