Tigers headed to Game 4 after being shut out
Sanchez solid for 6 1/3; Fielder victimized by two defensive gems
It's melodramatic to declare it's a series now, after Tuesday's 2-0 loss to the A's in Game 3, because the first two games were way too close to think it wasn't already. Detroit had just crept enough runs across to squeak out close games.
"We knew they weren't going to lay over," catcher Gerald Laird said. "They won their division and they got good pitching. And this kid Anderson's probably their ace. We knew it was going to be a tough test, but you've got to tip your cap."
What the Tigers have now is a battle on their hands, even with a 2-1 series advantage and Justin Verlander awaiting in a potential Game 5. They'll send Max Scherzer to the mound Wednesday night in Game 4 hoping to close it out, but they'll have to plate some runs to give him some help.
With Anderson's six scoreless innings on two hits, A's starters have held Detroit to four earned runs over 18 1/3 innings. Their only run-scoring hit so far this series is Alex Avila's solo homer in Game 1 on Saturday night.
The way Anderson pitched in his first outing since leaving his Sept. 19 outing in Detroit with an oblique injury, he didn't give the Tigers much of a chance. When he did, the A's defense was there to take it away.
It was the kind of stretch the star-studded Tigers have experienced more times than one might expect for their power. However, it was just the third time all year the Tigers have been shut out.
"They pitched and played a perfect game," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "You have to tip your hat to them. Nothing you could do about it."
If Coco Crisp's leaping catch at the fence in right-center field didn't rob Prince Fielder of a home run, it dramatically altered the rest of the inning given the back-to-back singles that followed from Delmon Young and Jhonny Peralta. Not only did Anderson not allow a hit after that stretch, he didn't allow a ball out of the infield. Nine groundouts, two strikeouts and two walks followed.
Fielder had two more hard hits after that. In the fourth inning, his ground ball up the middle, seemingly headed through an infield shift, became another of Stephen Drew's stellar plays as he ran it down and fired to first.
Once left fielder Yoenis Cespedes made a diving catch on Fielder's seventh-inning liner toward the gap, preventing a leadoff double off Ryan Cook, all Fielder could do was take off his batting gloves and head to the dugout.
His teammates knew the feeling. The Tigers put six runners on base safely. Peralta was responsible for three of them, producing two singles and a walk.
"You can go out and pitch to contact, and not worry about the results as much," Anderson said. "Coco set the tone with robbing the homer. You don't expect that when you're pitching. But he was tremendous. The guys up the middle were tremendous."
Anibal Sanchez, making his first career postseason start, did all he could to keep the Tigers close, using a darting breaking ball to recover after a walk and two singles greeted him with a 1-0 A's lead in the first inning. Sanchez retired nine consecutive A's and had a 2-2 count on Seth Smith when he shook off a sign and delivered a fastball, which Smith hit out of the park to straightaway center field in the fifth.
It was Smith's career third home run off Sanchez, and it improved him to 7-for-15 off his former National League foe.
"I don't know what it is," Smith said. "There's no secret to my success against him. It's just baseball, and some guys you see better than others. And maybe my swing has been in a good place every time I faced him, I don't know."
Sanchez acquitted himself well, delivering 6 1/3 innings of two-run ball on five hits before Leyland went to his bullpen once Smith came back up in the seventh. Sanchez became the first Tiger in history to make his postseason debut with that kind of pitching line and lose.
"I think I just came here today to throw my best game, like I always do," Sanchez said. "Today we have to give credit to their pitchers. They worked good and they threw a good ballgame today."
The Tigers were shut out and shut down for extra-base hits, and they struck out four consecutive times from the eighth inning into the ninth against Oakland relievers Sean Doolittle and Grant Balfour. Yet when Miguel Cabrera singled in the ninth, Fielder stepped to the plate once more as the potential tying run.
This time, Balfour jammed him into a game-ending double play. It was that kind of night.