OAKLAND, Calif. — Brett Anderson outdueled fellow playoff first-timer Anibal Sanchez and received stellar defense all over the diamond, and the upstart Oakland Athletics avoided another playoff sweep by Detroit, beating the Tigers 2-0 Tuesday night in their AL Division Series.
The A's cut their deficit in the best-of-five matchup to 2-1.
Coco Crisp saved a likely home run by 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 the Tigers' high-priced offense were shut down by the low-budget A's.
Anderson kept the Tigers scoreless behind a sharp breaking ball and a strong defense in his first start since injuring his right side falling awkwardly off the mound at Detroit on Sept. 19. The A’s have won seven in a row at home and will need another surprising sweep in a season full of them.
After dropping the first two games in Detroit, Oakland’s return home seemed to light a spark.
Anderson needed only eight pitches - seven for strikes - to get through the first and whip the green-and-gold clad crowd into a frenzy. In the bottom of the inning, Cespedes singled to center to drive home Crisp and give the A’s a lead. But with two runners on and no outs, Sanchez came back to strike out Brandon Moss looking and get Josh Reddick to ground into a double play.
Crisp, who had a two-run error trying to make a basket catch on Miguel Cabrera’s fly in Game 2, stole a long ball from Fielder leading off the second. Crisp jumped against the wall, reached his glove at the top of the fence and made the grab, forcing a stunned Fielder to stop his trot before second base.
In the fifth, Smith sent a 93 mph fastball from Sanchez high and far enough to center where nobody could catch, giving a light fist pump rounding first. The home run was Smith’s third in 15 career at-bats against Sanchez, a midseason acquisition from the Miami Marlins who was steady down the stretch.
Anderson, also making his postseason debut, got Omar Infante to ground into a double play to end the third. The lefty looked in control from the opening pitch, just as he had in six starts after a 14-month absence recovering from elbow ligament-replacement surgery before injuring his oblique.
With fans growing louder after every strike, Anderson seemed to grow stronger. He got Austin Jackson to ground out to short and struck out Infante and Cabrera swinging on sliders in a 13-pitch sixth.
Oakland certainly needed Anderson - and everyone on the roster - in peak form to avoid another disappointing playoff sweep.
The Tigers swept Oakland out of its last playoff series - in four games of the 2006 AL championship series. None of the current A’s were on the team then, and only two were even in the organization.