O.CO COLISEUM — Despite mounting a late-inning comeback, the A’s fell just short and dropped Game 1 of the American League Division Series to the Tigers 3-2.
Detroit jumped out to an first-inning lead against Bartolo Colon that proved to be enough, despite a seventh-inning bomb off the bat of Yoenis Cespedes.
Unusually for him, Colon struggled right out of the gate, allowing a lead-off double to Austin Jackson then hitting Torii Hunter with a pitch — the first batter Colon has hit all season.
AL MVP Candidate Miguel Cabrera singled home Jackson before a double play by Prince Fielder brought in another run.
With two outs, Victor Martinez doubled, then Alex Avila singled him home to give the Tigers a quick 3-0 lead that the A’s just couldn’t overcome.
Apart from the rough first inning, the 40-year-old right-hander settled in and kept his team in the game. Over the next four innings, he allowed just three hits – two of them infield singles – and didn’t walk anyone.
Colon struck out three – most notably Victor Martinez on three straight off-speed pitches to end the third. For a guy who throws the highest percentage of fastballs in the league, it was impressive.
Colon was also helped out by his defense when Detroit threatened to extend the lead in the sixth. After three straight singles to Martinez, Avila, and Omar Infante, Martinez was out at the plate on a perfect throw by Josh Reddick in right field, keeping the score 3-0.
In his first postseason start with the Athletics, Colon went six innings, allowing ten hits, no walks, and four strikeouts on 99 pitches.
But the Oakland offense was stifled by Scherzer for the first six innings, mustering only one hit – a triple by Cespedes with one out in the second – and striking out ten times.
In the seventh, though, the A’s finally did something they hadn’t done all night – get the lead-off hitter on. Brandon Moss hit a slow chopper to Jose Iglesias at short, beating out an infield hit.
Then it became a game.
Cespedes crushed his first career postseason homerun, a two-run shot to the left-field bleachers, getting the sellout crowd of 48,401 on their feet and the yellow rally rags waving vigorously. It’s the largest crowd the Coliseum has seen since a June 27, 2004 game against the San Francisco Giants.
Cespedes continued to add to his young legacy, as he and Rickey Henderson are now the only A’s players to hit both a triple and a home run in the same postseason game.
Despite the raucous crowd, Scherzer knew how important it was to get out of the inning without further damage, which he was able to do:
“From there I was able to settle down and get three big outs in that situation. The crowd was roaring, and the crowd was on their feet, and to get those outs was big because I was then able to pass it on to the rest of the pen.”
With his 118 pitches, Scherzer struck out 11 Athletics, walked two, and gave up only three hits. Jim Leyland was ‘thrilled’ with how his starter threw the ball in the first game of this series:
“I just thought [he] was pretty well locked in all night. He was awful determined. I think he was thrilled to get Game On. I think it meant a lot to him even though he said it didn’t really matter which game he pitched – and I think he responded like we expected him to be respond. … He was terrific.”
Drew Smyly got the first two outs of the eighth – both strikeouts – before Joaquin Benoit came in and got the four-out save.
Regardless of their strong finish, Oakland’s offense floundered against the Tigers pitching, specifically Scherzer.
Entering the postseason, the A’s had hit 74 home runs in their final 49 games, 14 more than any other team in the majors. On Friday night, they struck out 16 times, left four men on base, and are now 5-10 against the Tigers all-time in the playoffs.
Bob Melvin isn’t worried about his team’s struggles at the plate just yet. He knew they faced tough pitching on Friday night.
“We tend to strikeout some. We’ve been a little bit on and off with that over the course of the season. But Scherzer is a strikeout guy. He’s a swing-and-miss guy, and they have several pitchers that get their share of strikeouts. … Benoit strikes out a lot of guys.”
Detroit now has an 1-0 lead in the series, but the A’s will look to even it up on Saturday night when they send rookie Sonny Gray to the mound for his postseason debut to face Detroit’s Justin Verlander.
The A’s 16 strikeouts are their most ever in a postseason game. …Crisp recorded a postseason career-high three walks. …Reddick’s outfield assist was the fist one of his postseason career, and he’s now thrown out five base runners over his last eight games. …Colon made his first postseason start since October 10, 2005 against New York.