The energy in the O.co Coliseum was palpable. Through the extended introductions, the fireworks, and the National Anthem the stadium was ready to show just how loud it can get. As Bartolo Colon and the Oakland Athletics took the field it was clear the fans in attendance were bursting at the seams, ready to come unglued.
Austin Jackson took care of that.
Jackson smacked the third pitch of the game from Colon down the right field line for a lead off double. The Tigers would draw first blood on a Miguel Cabrera RBI single after Torii Hunter was hit by a pitch. With Hunter now at third base, Prince Fielder grounded into a double play that allowed the second run to score. The Tigers scratched out their third run on a single by Alex Avila that deflected off both Daric Barton and Eric Sogard and trickled just far enough away to bring home the third run. The A’s were in a hole before they even picked up their bats.
Tigers starter Max Scherzer may very well win the AL Cy Young Award this year, but he wasn’t at his best tonight. It didn’t matter though as the A’s swung wildly at pitches out of the zone, and stared at fastballs for strikes on multiple occasions. Scherzer struck out 11 in his 7 innings of work overall. The A’s struck out a total of 16 times by game’s end.
Not only did they fail to make any kind of consistent contact, they failed to hit in situational at bats as well. The brunt of this blame has to fall on Josh Reddick, who came to bat in the bottom of the second inning following a one out triple by Yoenis Cespedes. Reddick failed to put the ball in play, which in all likelihood would have brought in the run and cut the deficit to two. That run would have been huge later on, as the towering home run by Yoenis Cespedes would have tied the game at three in the seventh inning. Reddick, Brandon Moss, and Daric Barton accounted for 9 of the team’s 16 K’s on the night.
Reddick did partially atone for his ineptitude at the plate by cutting down Victor Martinez attempting to score on a single by Omar Infante, but that simply prevented what would have been a 4-2 loss instead of the 3-2 final we ended up seeing.
Colon settled down nicely after his rocky start, but it was too little, too late for the A’s. Dan Otero and Sean Doolittle combined for three perfect innings of relief, which gave the A’s a fighting chance. They mustered little resistance though against the Tigers in the late innings, only reaching base on a Coco Crisp walk in the eighth.
So tomorrow’s game 2 becomes all the more important for the A’s, simply put they need to win unless they want to attempt the miraculous comeback we witnessed last season in this very same series. Of course the circumstances are very different, this time they would have to take the first two in Detroit. Sonny Gray and Justin Verlander will battle it out on the mound tomorrow evening. This is a very tall task for Gray, pitching in a must-win game against a former Cy Young winner and MVP in Verlander. The A’s absolutely have to take more quality at bats against the Tigers if they want to have any shot at evening this series, or advancing to the ALCS.