OAKLAND — These Oakland Athletics never count themselves out – down and doubted is their dogma.
Brett Anderson outdueled fellow postseason first-timer Anibal Sanchez and the upstart A’s were stellar on defense all over the diamond, avoiding a series sweep by beating the Detroit Tigers, 2-0, Tuesday night in their AL Division Series.
Oakland cut its deficit in the best-of-five matchup to 2-1.
Coco Crisp saved a likely home run by the Tigers’ Prince Fielder with a leaping catch at the top of the center-field wall in the second – and the A’s will play another day in this improbable season full of remarkable rallies.
Yoenis Cespedes hit an RBI single in the first inning and Seth Smith homered later. That was plenty on a night Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera, Fielder and Detroit’s high-priced offense were shut down by the low-budget Athletics.
Tigers 16-game winner Max Scherzer will try to close out the series in Game 4 today against Oakland rookie A.J. Griffin. Detroit swept the A’s in the 2006 AL Championship Series.
Fielder was the biggest victim of Oakland’s spot-on defense, being robbed three times. First by Crisp, Oakland’s most experienced player whose Game 2 blunder on Cabrera’s fly allowed two runs to score in a 5-4 loss Sunday in Detroit.
Crisp let out a big “Whoo!” after raising his arm to signal he’d made the grab. Athletics shortstop Stephen Drew made a tough play running to his left to stop Fielder’s grounder in the fourth and then threw to first while still off-balance and in motion.
Then, in the seventh, Cespedes cut over to make a diving catch on Fielder’s liner to left field.
“I tried to go under coverage,” Fielder said. “I couldn’t go over it.”
Or through it, either.
That delighted the yellow-towel-waving sellout crowd of 37,090 in Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.
After Cabrera singled with one out in the ninth, Fielder grounded into a game-ending double play.
“They played a perfect game,” Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. “Coco’s catch really got them into it, and it was a good baseball game. Runs are at a premium right now.”
The A’s own the lowest payroll in baseball at $59.5 million. Fielder is getting big money in Motown: $214 million over nine years.
Anderson, back on the mound for the first time since straining a muscle in his right side back on Sept. 19, worked quickly and showed no signs of a layoff or jitters in his first postseason start.
That’s just not the way Oakland has operated this year.
Last week, the Athletics entered their final three-game series of the regular season needing to sweep the two-time reigning AL champion Rangers to capture the AL West – and Oakland did it, sending a stunned Texas team to the one-game wild card, which it lost to Baltimore.
A club with a majors-best 14 walkoff wins and countless whipped cream pie celebrations snapped the longest postseason skid in franchise history at six games.
“We’ve played a lot of games when we lost tough games, and we’ve come back and won the next day,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said earlier. “We do have some history with that.”
Anderson faced the minimum in three of his first four innings, throwing 51 pitches through four.