Balfour: 'I'm not going to let these guys intimidate me'
Brandon Moss hit one of the A's three home runs off of Tigers starter Anibal Sanchez Monday in Detroit. (USATSI)
Grant Balfour and Victor Martinez exchanged words in the ninth inning of the A's Game 3 win in Detroit. (USATSI)
DETROIT – Nothing kicks the Oakland A’s offense into gear quite like a trip to Detroit.
The A’s swatted three home runs off American League ERA champ Anibal Sanchez on Monday and dispatched the Tigers 6-3 in Game 3 of the American League Division Series. After being held to just three runs and 11 hits combined in the first two games in Oakland, the A’s showed the kind of muscle that fueled their drive to the American League West title.
Josh Reddick and Brandon Moss hit solo shots and Seth Smith added a two-run drive that deflated the Tigers after they had erased a three-run deficit to tie the game in the fourth. Combined with some stellar bullpen work over the final four innings, the A’s moved to within a victory of advancing to the AL Championship Series for the first time since 2006.
They hold a 2-1 lead in this best-of-five series with Game 4 set for Tuesday at Comerica Park. If Boston clinches the other ALDS against Tampa Bay on Monday night, Game 4 will start at 4:07 p.m. If Tampa Bay wins, the game will begin at 2:07 p.m.
Things got spicy in the bottom of the ninth as A’s closer Grant Balfour and Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez began jawing in the middle of Martinez’s at-bat. Both benches, and the bullpens, cleared but no punches were thrown.
The A’s won three of four at Comerica Park in late August, a series in which they scored 34 runs and tallied 52 hits. From that point on, their offense rolled through the rest of the regular season. Manager Bob Melvin pointed to that series as a turning point for his club.
Starting pitching report
Jarrod Parker went five innings and allowed three runs to register his first career victory in the postseason. The right-hander sailed through the first three innings, retiring nine of 10 hitters and using just 34 pitches. But Detroit, trailing 3-0, struck for three in the fourth to tie it. Martinez had a run-scoring double down the right-field line and Jhonny Peralta singled in two runs.
Parker allowed five hits and three runs with one walk and one strikeout.
Parker left the bullpen with plenty of work. Dan Otero entered in the sixth and delivered two scoreless innings. Sean Doolittle handled the eighth and then Balfour nailed down the save with the extracurricular drama thrown in for good measure.
At the plate
Tigers right-hander Anibal Sanchez came in having allowed just four home runs at Comerica Park all season. He served up three in just 4 1/3 innings Monday as the A’s got to the right-hander for eight hits and six runs (five earned).
The A’s got the kind of ensemble production that marked the final two months of their regular season. It was a good omen when Coco Crisp led off the game with a double. He had been held in check in the first two games, but he went 3 for 4 with a sacrifice fly, a run scored and stolen base Monday.
Then the A’s dropped the hammer on Sanchez. They led 1-0 in the fourth when Josh Reddick cleared the right field wall on a 2-2 pitch. Reddick, hitting seventh in the order, came in just 1 for 7 in the series. Going back to last year’s ALDS, he had struck out 13 times in seven postseason games against Detroit.
Stephen Vogt, Game 2’s offensive hero, helped set up another run in the fourth when he legged out a triple on a drive to right-center and scored on Crisp’s sacrifice fly to make it 3-0. After the Tigers tied it in the bottom of the fourth, the A’s answered right back with three more runs in the fifth to take control of the game for good.
Cleanup man Brandon Moss, who stepped to the plate having struck out in seven of his first 10 plate appearances this series, drilled a liner into the seats in right-center. Yoenis Cespedes followed with a single. Anibal Sanchez kept throwing to first to keep Cespedes close but he should have been focusing on Smith. Sitting on a 3-1 count, Smith launched a two-run homer to left-center to make it 6-3. Smith has started the past two games at DH and is 4 for 8.
In the field
The A’s turned just 112 double plays this season, the fewest in Oakland history for a non-strike season, but they turned two Monday to stymie a couple of potential Detroit rallies. Josh Donaldson started a 5-4-3 double play to end the fifth on Parker’s final batter. Moss began another inning-ending double play in the sixth when he fielded Martinez’s bouncer, stepped on first and threw to second to get Prince Fielder.
The A’s got their first run in the third when Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera had Cespedes’ sharp grounder skip off his left arm for an error that allowed Crisp to score.
A sellout crowd of 43,973 was on hand.
Dan Straily (10-8, 3.96) will take the mound in Tuesday’s Game 4, becoming the sixth rookie to start the A’s last nine postseason games. He’ll be going on 12 days’ rest, an extremely long layoff even though Straily threw a simulated game in Oakland on Wednesday. Doug Fister (14-9. 3.67) starts for Detroit.