With their backs against the wall, the A's needed a win on Tuesday night to stay alive in the postseason. Brett Anderson stepped up in his first start in 20 days, and Oakland earned a 2-0 win to cut their deficit in their AL Division Series matchup with the Tigers to two games to one.
Anderson's start for the A's was quite frankly, incredible. The A's had good starting pitching performances in the first two games of this series, but came out on the losing end of both. Anderson allowed just two hits over six shutout innings, walking two and striking out six Detroit hitters. The only inning all night when the Tigers put a man in scoring position was in the second inning, when they had men on first and second with one out and first and third with two outs. They walked away with nothing, and for the rest of the night, no Detroit baserunner would even make it as far as second base. After Anderson left the game, the dominant A's bullpen took over, allowing just two hits over three scoreless innings. They struck out five hitters while not allowing a walk and threw a combined 37 pitches.
Now just because they lost, it's not as if the Tigers got a bad starting pitching performance from Anibal Sanchez. He allowed just two runs on five hits over 6 1/3 innings, and his worst inning was actually the first, when the A's got their first run. Coco Crisp led off for the A's with a single, and Stephen Drew followed that up by walking. A Yoenis Cespedes single brought Crisp home to make it 1-0 before Sanchez struck out Brandon Moss and got a double play from Josh Reddick to end the threat. In the fifth, a solo homer by Seth Smith made it a 2-0 Oakland lead, and that would be more than enough for Anderson and the A's bullpen. But hell, after from that first inning, the Smith homer was the only time all night an A's player would get as far as second base…both teams got great pitching performances, but Anderson's just happened to be better.
The game also took on a different tone in the second inning, when Prince Fielder led off with a blast to deep right center that Coco Crisp pulled from over the wall. If Crisp didn't make that catch, the second inning likely plays out a lot different for the Tigers, and who knows what would have happened from there. If a game can be defined by one moment, look no further than that catch.
Wednesday night, game four of this series will go down in Oakland once again. First pitch is scheduled for 9:37 PM, and Max Scherzer will start for the Tigers against AJ Griffin of the A's. A few notes about that matchup: the A's struck out more than any team in baseball this season. Scherzer struck out the second most hitters of any pitcher in baseball. The pitcher who struck out the most hitters in baseball was Justin Verlander, who will start on Thursday if there's a game five.