There are more important matters on their agenda, but the image of Detroit Tigers pitcher Al Alburquerque kissing the ball before throwing out a runner Sunday night is still floating around in the heads of the Oakland A’s.
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On their day off Monday, it was still tough for some players to dismiss the diss.
Despite being one game from elimination in the American League Division Series, some A’s remain hot under their hats over the ninth-inning stunt by Alburquerque, who fielded a bouncer off the bat of Yoenis Cespedes and gently pressed his lips to the ball before tossing it to first base.
A’s outfielder Jonny Gomes was still unhappy with Alburquerque’s gesture but said he would let a higher power handle the matter.
“That type of stuff I don’t deal with,” he said. “There are baseball gods that take care of that kind of stuff. Obviously he doesn’t believe in baseball gods, but I do.”
It was something that stung even more after the Tigers scored the tiebreaking run in the bottom of the ninth to win 5-4 and take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series. The A’s’ only recourse is to win and keep winning, something they’ve done before this season.
They swept seven of 23 home series during the regular season, including three games against the Texas Rangers that won the American League West title on the final day. That’s probably why their clubhouse was loose and loud before they worked out at Oakland Coliseum.
“We’re just going to be the same guys we’ve been all year and let our personalities run wild and act like we’ve won five in a row,” Josh Reddick said.
Manager Bob Melvin named left-hander Brett Anderson to start against Anibal Sanchez in Game 3, and there’s surely a certain risk to his choice.
Anderson, 4-2 with a 2.57 ERA, hasn’t pitched since Sept. 19 when he suffered a right oblique strain against the Tigers in a 4-2 loss — and that was after missing most of the season because of Tommy John surgery in August 2011. Anderson, 24, has made just six starts this season.
“Just getting back on a big-league mound was goal No. 1,” Anderson said. “I got past that point and I was feeling good with the way I was throwing, and then get to Detroit and have an oblique injury and you kind of have to do the process all over again — just a shorter time frame. But it’s going to be fun. I don’t really know what to expect.”
Melvin said he’ll watch Anderson closely for signs of fatigue but won’t set any limits.
“We’ll see how it goes,” he said. “We’ll play it by ear. I don’t think we’re going to do anything too strict as far as his pitch count goes. We’re just going to see every inning how he feels and monitor that. Adrenaline kicks in and sometimes you have more in the tank than you normally would after a little bit of time off.”
Anderson could either give the A’s new life or send them on their way toward a long winter. But his teammates insist they won’t be pressing, even with the knowledge that the next loss will send them home.
“I don’t even feel like pressure gets to these guys, which is the best thing I’ve ever seen,” injured third baseman Brandon Inge said. “For a young group of guys, especially a young pitching staff like we have, it seems like pressure doesn’t get to them. That’s why we’re here right now.”
True, although they’re still seething over Alburquerque, who said Monday he just let his emotions get the better of him.
“They know I did it within the emotions of the game,” he said. “I respect Cespedes, and I didn’t do it out of disrespect. I was just excited to get that out.”
His old-school manager, Jim Leyland, didn’t like his relief pitcher’s antics, but he also insisted the Tigers did not want to offend their opponents.
“I don’t think it was the right thing to do,” Leyland said. “It shouldn’t have happened. It did happen. I will not try to defend it. I will say that I can assure everybody, including the Oakland A’s, that Alburquerque did nothing intentionally to offend them.”
But as A’s closer Grant Balfour said, “If that’s what he did and they lose three games here, it’s going to come back and bite him. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t.”
If it does, this series is just getting started. If it doesn’t the A’s will have to wait until 2013 for their revenge.