Nobody thought this would be easy. In fact, I thought the chances of a four game sweep at the hands of the Detroit Tigers was fairly high for the Oakland Athletics. There was nothing to suggest the Athletics had a fighting chance on paper against the mighty Tigers. But as they say, the game isn’t played on paper.
Anibal Sanchez came into the game leading the American League with a 2.45 ERA, but it was clear from the beginning that he wasn’t at his best as Coco Crisp doubled to lead off the game, and would score two batters later on an RBI single up the middle by Josh Donaldson. After a Brandon Moss single put runners at first and third with one out, Yoenis Cespedes beat out a would be inning ending double play ball to allow Donaldson to score the A’s second run. As the rest of the game would show, every single run would count tonight.
A.J. Griffin looked fairly strong in his first inning of work, striking out the side as he worked around a one out single. Since striking out the side in the first against the Tigers in this case meant downing both Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder along with Austin Jackson, there was reason to be encouraged by his inning. But the A.J. Griffin we’ve grown accustomed to in 2013 returned in the second inning, as Omar Infante lined an 0-2 pitch just over the left field wall to tie the game at two.
As we would find out, this game would be a battle all the way until the end. Coco Crisp would answer back immediately with his 14th home run of the season and fourth in the last five games to give the A’s back the lead. They would tack on another run on the first of two RBI singles by the returning Daric Barton in the fourth inning. The Tigers though would have an answer yet again.
If you stop and look at it, this made complete sense. A.J. Griffin had given up 31 home runs on the season after the Infante longball, and Miguel Cabrera came to the plate with 42 to his name. You can probably guess what happened with a runner on base and Cabrera at the plate. Griffin would hang a 3-1 slider out over the plate and Cabrera would serve it the opposite way into the right field bleachers for home run number 43. Most importantly, that shot tied the game at 4-4.
The A’s would answer back yet again in the sixth, this time on Barton’s second RBI single, and on an RBI single from Coco Crisp to take a 6-4 lead against reliever Jose Alvarez. Griffin would get into trouble immediately in the bottom half of the frame, and would depart in favor of Dan Otero. He would escape the frame unscored upon. Otero would work the seventh inning as well, and got himself into some more serious trouble with a single and a walk, then an intentional pass to Miguel Cabrera to load the bases for Prince Fielder. In perhaps the biggest at bat of the night, Sean Doolittle gave us all a huge scare as Fielder launched a fly ball to center field. The cavernous Comerica Park would be able to contain the fly ball though, and Coco Crisp ran it down to end the inning. Doolittle wouldn’t be so fortunate though against Victor Martinez, though by then the A’s had added two more runs to take an 8-4 lead. Martinez’s homer trimmed it to 8-5.
Ryan Cook would enter the game after Doolittle retired Matt Tuisasosopo, and would get himself into a bit of a pinch. Two singles and a walk would load the bases with Torii Hunter coming to bat and Miguel Cabrera looming in the on deck circle. Cook would escape disaster by striking out Hunter on three pitches.
The ninth inning wouldn’t be without suspense as well, as Grant Balfour allowed back to back singles to Fielder and Martinez. A passed ball by Stephen Vogt would move them both into scoring position. The Tigers would get a run on a fielder’s choice out by Tuiasosopo, but that would be as close as they would get with Balfour converting his 33rd save in 34 chances.
This win can largely be put on the shoulders of two players: Coco Crisp, and Daric Barton. Many rolled their eyes upon hearing the news that it was Daric Barton who would replace Josh Reddick on the roster rather than Michael Choice, but Barton paid immediate dividends for the Athletics. Coco Crisp did just about everything tonight, including his 100th career home run and an amazing diving catch in center field.
The win is huge for the A’s in that it can help set the tone for this big series in Detroit, and it also helps keep pace with the Texas Rangers in the AL West as they remain 2.5 games out. Once again tomorrow’s matchup favors the Tigers as Tommy Milone takes the hill against Justin Verlander. Verlander has owned the A’s recently, but he hasn’t been the same pitcher for much of this season. It remains to be seen if the A’s can take advantage of a less effective Verlander, or if they will find themselves in the same old situation against the right hander.