OAKLAND, Calif. — Ideally, Jim Leyland would have everybody hug it out and play ball.
Just as Detroit’s Justin Verlander and Coco Crisp of Oakland did on the field for Monday’s workout a day ahead of their teams’ Game 3 in the AL division series today. The Tigers lead the series 2-0 and are one win from advancing to a second consecutive AL championship series.
Leyland insists reliever Al Alburquerque meant no ill will toward the Athletics when he fielded Yoenis Cespedes’ ninth-inning comebacker and quickly kissed the ball before throwing to first. Yet the manager disagreed with the display.
“Everybody always says I’m from the old school, so I’d have probably hugged it first,” Leyland joked. “I don’t think it was the right thing to do. I will sit here today and I will not try to defend it. I will say that I can assure everybody, including the Oakland A’s, Al Alburquerque did nothing intentionally to offend the Oakland A’s.”
“It wasn’t a smart thing to do, but I can honestly tell you that there is no way that Al Alburquerque or any members of the Detroit Tigers would ever do anything intentionally to offend another team. It just would not happen,” Leyland continued.
As upstart Oakland returned home hoping to pull off another improbable sweep like the one against Texas last week to capture the AL West crown, that controversial smooch was still plenty talked about in both clubhouses.
Alburquerque said he did speak to his teammates, and that they knew his gesture was “within the emotion of the game.”
“I respect Cespedes and I didn’t do it out of disrespect,” the pitcher said. “I was just excited to get the out.”
Still, that didn’t mean the Tigers weren’t surprised.
“I said, ‘Did I see what I just saw?’” Detroit catcher Gerald Laird said.
Cespedes was eager to get to his baseball work Monday, saying: “That’s his problem. It doesn’t bother me. It was his turn to win. Someday it will be my turn.”
Even though everybody realized they should be focused on the game itself.
“I know him, so I know he didn’t mean much by it,” injured A’s third baseman and former Tiger Brandon Inge said. “But I’m sure he’s going to regret it. Honestly, this is something that’s going to be blown out of proportion because it’s a unique story and it’s something that doesn’t happen much. For us, our ultimate retaliation or comeback would be to win three. We’re not concerned with the actions of one person. On their side, I’m sure he didn’t really want to stir up a hornet’s nest over here either.”
Right-hander Anibal Sanchez (4-6), a midseason acquisition from Miami who was steady down the stretch, will try to pitch the Tigers to another postseason sweep of Oakland.
Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera is still looking for his first RBI of the series, but is hitting .375 (3 for 8) with two doubles, no strikeouts and a walk.
Athletics left-hander Brett Anderson (4-2) gets the ball in his postseason debut as Oakland tries to prolong its season for one more day.
Anderson, who looked strong in six starts after a 14-month absence recovering from elbow ligament-replacement surgery, is coming back from a right oblique injury he sustained falling awkwardly off the mound in a start at Detroit on Sept. 19.