Saturday night's ADLS Game 1 between the Detroit Tigers and Oakland Athletics was everything it was advertised to be. In this 3-1 Tigers victory, two hard-throwing hurlers (Justin Verlander and Jarrod Parker) dominated the action.
Sunday’s second ALDS game between the Tigers and A’s was quite the opposite.
This pivotal matchup saw A’s rookie Tommy Milone—a crafty, strike-throwing left-hander, battle the Tigers' towering and equally creative veteran righty Doug Fister.
Place both hurlers in the spacious Comerica Park and sprinkle in sub-50-degree temps, and this game had all the makings of a low-scoring affair.
And it was.
That is, until the bullpens took over.
Thus, what began as stellar starts by Milone and Fister ended with a loud, game-winning sacrifice fly off the bat of Detroit utility man Don Kelly.
Here are team grades from the Tigers' wild 5-4 victory over Oakland.
Starting Pitching: A-
It was nearly impossible for Fister to top Verlander’s performance.
But Fister pitched very effectively for the Tigers in his own right.
Fister fired seven ironclad frames, giving up two earned runs on six hits. Not your usual strikeout pitcher, Fister dispatched eight Oakland hitters.
How many Tigers fans cursed and fought tooth-and-nail not to fire objects at TV sets after Fister left after the seventh inning?
It was like Jekyll and Hyde from Game 1.
After tossing a smooth scoreless inning in Game 1, Tigers reliever Joaquin Benoit was all over the place in this game.
Benoit let Yoenis Cespedes steal two bases in a row, as if the Tigers were up 10-0 and he did not matter. Benoit then fired a wild pitch, which brought Cespedes home to tie the game. Benoit then delivered a beach ball to Josh Reddick, who crushed a solo shot to give Oakland the lead.
Phil Coke started the ninth inning, but could only get two outs. He gave up one hit and a walk, before Al Alburquerque came in to clean up Coke’s mess.
Thankfully for the Tigers, Oakland’s bullpen was nearly as terrible.
Milone kept Detroit’s offense mostly at bay in this game. But Oakland as a team could not contain Cabrera, as the Tigers’ Triple Crown Winner went 3-for-5. Jhonny Peralta went 2-for-4.
As a team, Detroit pounded out 11 hits. The first five hitters in the Tigers’ lineup batted .347 (8-for-23).
Detroit did leave 10 runners on base, while hitting just 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position. Regardless, the Tigers did just enough to get the job done.
While Detroit’s infield range is always an issue, the Tigers committed zero errors as a team. Cabrera did have a wild throw to first on a tough chopper hit by Crisp early in the game. But overall, the Tigers' defense played well.
The defensive gem of this game goes to rookie right fielder Avisail Garcia. With the game tied at one, Garcia scooped up a single to right and gunned down Crisp at home.
Instead of Oakland taking the lead with potential for a huge inning, Garcia’s play gave the Tigers its second out of the inning. Fister got the next batter out to hold the fort.
Starting Pitcher: A-
Faced with the pressure of a must-have win, Milone stood tall for the A’s.
Using well-located fastballs and an outstanding changeup, Milone kept the Tigers’ offense mostly at bay. In six innings of work, Milone surrendered one earned runs on five hits. He struck out six.
the only reason Milone gets an A- is because it is hard to justify an A in the wake of Verlander’s unworldly performance Friday.
Oakland’s bullpen failed to rise to the occasion in this affair (no thanks to Coco Crisp’s two-run error). Sean Doolittle, Ryan Cook and Grant Balfour squandered six hits and four runs (two unearned) in 2.2 innings of work.
Oakland did not enjoy its best day offensively. But the A’s did just enough to nearly steal this game from the Tigers.
Second baseman Cliff Pennington was the biggest pest, going 2-for-3 with a walk and an RBI. Yoenis Cespedes also had a nice day (2-for-5 with an RBI). His consecutive stolen bases were huge in helping the A’s tie the game late on a wild pitch. Josh Reddick came up huge too, delivering a clutch solo shot over the right-field wall to give Oakland a 4-3 lead.
Oakland’s defense was solid in this game. That is, until Crisp hot-dogged a Cabrera pop-fly to center in the bottom of the seventh inning. The ball bounced off the heel of Crisp’s glove into the air. Crisp tried to snag the ball again before it hit the ground. But again, gravity won. Austin Jackson and Omar Infante scored on the play for the Tigers.
If Oakland loses the series, Crisp’s Christmas gift to the Tigers may forever go down in infamy.