video thumbnail

OAK@DET Gm2: Laird discusses his faith in Sanchez

OAKLAND -- It's hard to say how many of the athletes on the Detroit Tigers and Oakland A's were also Mathletes in grade school, but the arithmetic for what's going on in the American League Division Series couldn't be simpler.

Entering Tuesday's Game 3, with the series shifting to Oakland, the Tigers need to win one game to advance to their second consecutive AL Championship Series.

Or, if you prefer to look at it the other way, the A's need to win to force a Game 4 in the best-of-five series.

Don Kelly, who won Game 2 for the Tigers when his sacrifice fly off Grant Balfour went deep enough to right field to score Omar Infante and preserve a 5-4 walk-off victory and the 2-0 series lead, had already figured out those numbers when he was interviewed moments after the game.

"It's easier to win one, obviously, then to have to go out there and have to win two, so it's a great feeling," Kelly said.

But the Tigers know what they're in for after flying across the country to the Bay Area. They know how tough the A's have been at home this year. Oakland was 50-31 at the Coliseum during the regular season. The A's won six straight and eight of nine to end the season, including the final three against the Texas Rangers to clinch the AL West title.

Oh, and they just so happened to lead the Major Leagues in walk-off wins in 2012 with 14.

For as much Motown magic as the Tigers enjoyed in the first two games, Detroit knows there could very well be a reversal of fortune on the other coast.

"We need to bring it on Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday," Tigers catcher Gerald Laird said. "Hopefully we don't get to those [final two] games, but we've got to bring it on Tuesday, because not even a week ago this team swept a pretty good team at home to win their division.

"We know what they're capable of. We know that it's possible, because that's a good ballclub and they're going to go down fighting. I like our chances, but we got to bring it."

Meanwhile, the A's know what they have to do, and they know they'll have the support of their home crowd while they attempt to do it.

They have to win three games at home, and they know that they can't win three without first winning one. That comes Tuesday, when they will lean on their left-handed starter, Brett Anderson, to go up against Detroit and its right-hander, Anibal Sanchez, and they expect to have a packed house in the Coliseum to watch it.

"Well, it is full and it's loud," A's manager Bob Melvin said Monday. "And we saw that the last weekend of the season, I think it really, really helped us. They were involved. And even earlier in the season, when I've often said if there's 10 or 15 in here, it sounds like it's 30.

"And when this place is packed it's about as loud as it gets. So it has an effect on us. We appreciate it."

Following Sunday's Game 2 defeat, in which the A's watched two late leads slip away, Melvin was concise and clear about the approach his team needs to take to avoid being swept out of October.

"You've just got to move on," Melvin said. "If you let it stick in your craw, then you won't be prepared to the best of your capabilities on Tuesday. So you've just got to let it go."

And you have to have confidence, which is something this upstart club has never seemed to lose, even when it was trailing Texas by double-digit games earlier in the summer.

"This team's done it all year and I don't think there's any doubt that we'll do it again," A's infielder Cliff Pennington said. "It's what we started preaching from Day 1 of Spring Training. We'll see what we're made of now. It's definitely what we've got to do."

And then there's this number that might play into the A's favor: The Tigers went 38-43 away from Detroit in 2012, making them the only division winner in baseball to have a losing record on the road.

Pennington was asked if was aware of that math, and he smiled.

"I didn't know that," he said.

"But I'll take it."

Tigers: Sanchez for the sweep
The Tigers made a late-July trade with Florida to get Sanchez because they wanted a veteran starter to help them nail down the AL Central. That plan worked, with the right-hander winning four games down the stretch and putting up a 3.74 ERA for Detroit that was better than the 3.94 he had with the Marlins.

Now Sanchez, who was knocked around on Sept. 20 in a loss in his only start against Oakland this year, has the chance to pitch his team to a clinching win in his first postseason start, and he'll do it in a hostile environment.

"You know, I've never pitched here," Sanchez said Monday. "I don't try to focus too much about how loud it's going to be, the field ... I try to focus and do my job. I try to focus to throw my [pitch] for a strike, [take it] hitter by hitter. That's what I do. And I don't think too much of other things. I try to focus just on one thing."

• Tigers manager Jim Leyland has been getting great contributions from his bench, which he used to significant benefit on Sunday, when pinch-runner Danny Worth made a terrific play at shortstop on a ground ball by Coco Crisp in the top of the ninth that got a key forceout at second base. In the bottom of the inning, of course, Kelly delivered the game-winning sacrifice fly.

"I've always emphasized that since I've been here," Leyland said. "That's what a team's all about, everybody making contributions. So it takes everybody to contribute. And we got contributions from everybody. So that's a good thing. That's what a team's all about."

A's: Anderson all set for Game 3 start
Anderson, who missed much of the 2012 season recovering from Tommy John surgery, returned to the mound on Aug. 21 and went 4-2 with a 2.57 ERA before exiting a Sept. 19 start against the Tigers in Detroit in the third inning with the right oblique strain.

Now, he's back.

"I'm good," Anderson said Monday. "It wasn't ideal getting hurt again. But I feel good and the postseason, who knows when we're going to get back here? You'd like to say you're going to get back here again, but you have to put the nicks and knacks away and get ready to play, because everybody has them at this point."

• Melvin was asked again Monday when he finally will give right-handed-hitting Jonny Gomes a start in this series, and the A's skipper still didn't have an answer, with Sanchez marking the Tigers' third right-handed starter in a row and Gomes' left-handed platoon partner, Seth Smith, hitting .417 (10-for-24) with two homers and six RBIs against Detroit this season.

"I don't know," Melvin said. "It's a tough one. Where? ... It's always difficult not to get Jonny in. It's difficult not to get Chris Carter in. But, you know, we're planning it a certain way, and there's a good chance that we're going to continue to do that."

Worth noting
• Third baseman and AL Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera had three hits, including two doubles, in Game 2, and has reached base safely in all 13 of his postseason games with the Tigers, trailing only Hank Greenberg (18) and Charlie Gehringer (16) for the longest such streak in franchise history.

• Comebacks are nothing new to the A's. They already staged one of the most remarkable rallies in Major League history to win their division. Oakland trailed the Rangers by five games with nine games remaining and became the first team in Major League history to win a division or pennant after trailing by five or more games with fewer than 10 games remaining.

MLB.com Comments