It looks like the Oakland A’s brought their west coast weirdness with them from the Bay Area. The game started out fairly normally and then deteriorated into a lot of late-inning sloppiness. Doug Fister started out the game very efficient and effective. The strike zone seemed pretty wide, though not as wide as last night, and Fister used that to his advantage. He seemed very calm, and not nervous at all. If there was one thing to be critical of, it’s that he allowed the leadoff man to reach in four of his seven innings, and he was burned twice by this. I mentioned in the preview thread that Cliff Pennington was 1-for-21 off him in his career. He had two hits off of him today, and they both figured in the scoring. The first was a leadoff single in the third and he eventually scored the first run, and the second single knocked in the second (and, at the time, go-ahead) run for the A’s. Fister also got some help defensively from Avisail Garcia, who made a great throw to cut down Coco Crisp trying to score in the third. However, overall it was a good outing for Fister.
The Tigers had kind of a tough time figuring out Tommy Milone. Unlike the A’s, who had the leadoff man on in four of the seven innings that Fister pitched, the Tigers did not get the leadoff man on until the eighth inning, when Milone was out of the game. In fact, the only time the Tigers had baserunners with less than two out against Milone was in the third inning, when they scored a run on a Miguel Cabrera double, a Prince Fielder single, and a Delmon Young groundout. That was the only run they would score against Milone. All of their other rallies came with two out, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that it’s a lot harder to have a big inning that way.
The game got weird once both starting pitchers were out of the game. The A’s, having just taken a 2-1 lead, elected to go to their seventh-inning man, Sean Doolittle. After getting the first two out, Austin Jackson and Omar Infante both came up with singles to get Miguel Cabrera to the plate, which is the situation you want. And Cabrera came through…sort of. He lofted a shallow fly ball to center that Coco Crisp nearly sno-coned, then juggled and eventually dropped, scoring two runs and giving the Tigers the lead.
That brought in Joaquin Benoit for the eighth inning, and it wasn’t pretty. He gave up a leadoff single on the first pitch to Yoenis Cespedes. It looked like he might escape that after Brandon Moss flied out to center and Josh Reddick (who had struggled in the series) at the plate. But then he completely forgot about Cespedes, who stole second and third, and then scored the tying run on a wild pitch. Reddick made the wild pitch moot by hitting the next pitch out to right (on a hanging changeup). I’m not one of the ones calling for Benoit’s head. The insanely high number of home runs he’s given up since the All-Star Break is puzzling, but it’s also way off from his career norms. I would imagine he’ll figure out what the problem is and make the adjustment eventually, but there’s not a whole lot of opportunity to do that in the postseason. He’s got to get things turned around quickly.
But the A’s were not done gift-wrapping runs for the Tigers. They gave away another one in the bottom of the eighth. After singles from Young and Peralta, a bunt, and a parade of pinch-runners and pinch-hitters, Ryan Cook uncorked a wild pitch of his own with two out and Don Kelly scored to tie the game back up.
Phil Coke started the ninth inning for the Tigers, against a righty pinch-hitting for a lefty, followed by two switch-hitters. Oddly enough, he fared decently against this group of hitters, striking out Derek Norris, walking Cliff Pennington, and getting Coco Crisp to ground into a fielder’s choice (and while I still question the necessity of having both Danny Worth AND Ramon Santiago on the ALDS roster, I will point out that Worth made a nice play on Crisp’s ground ball). However, he probably paid too much attention to Coco Crisp and gave up a single to the lefty Stephen Drew that put runners at first and third (it seems like the relievers can’t find middle ground between paying too much attention to baserunners and completely ignoring them). That brought in Al Alburquerque, who got a comebacker off the bat of Cespedes and kissed the ball before throwing it to first (I’ll admit, if not for several people pointing this out on Twitter, I would’ve missed it entirely, so I’m not going to make the obvious joke here).
The A’s elected to bring on their closer in the ninth inning of a tie game on the road. The last time they did this in the postseason against the Tigers, it didn’t end so well for them, although this time it was Grant Balfour instead of Huston Street. This game maybe didn’t have the goosebump drama of that one, but the end result was the same. Omar Infante and Miguel Cabrera hit one-out singles, putting runners at the corners with one out. It was a no-brainer for the A’s to walk Prince Fielder intentionally, especially since Don Kelly was on deck instead of Delmon Young. But here’s the thing: Don Kelly may only have hit .186 this year, but he only struck out 22 times in 113 plate appearances. He generally makes contact. And with one out, he did all he needed to do: hit a fly ball deep enough to score Infante. And with that, the Tigers won, they jumped up and down all over the field, and Kelly gave me my favorite moment of the game when he lifted Prince Fielder up in the air.
And so now this series shifts to Oakland. The Tigers haven’t been a great road team, but they’ll have three chances to get just one win. Their first chance will be on Tuesday. Anibal Sanchez will start for the Tigers, while Oakland’s starter is TBA (though it will likely be Brett Anderson).