Neither was anyone else for the Tigers at the plate.
Unlike the 2006 American League Championship Series, when the Tigers beat the Athletics on Ordonez’s walk-off homer in Game 4, Detroit couldn’t finish off a sweep. Brett Anderson returned from an injury to pitch six shutout innings in Oakland’s 2-0 Game 3 AL Division Series victory.
Anderson made only six starts this season after recovering from Tommy John surgery and hadn’t pitched since straining an oblique muscle on Sept. 19 at Comerica Park. Oakland manager Bob Melvin gambled that Anderson wouldn’t be rusty after the long layoff, and the move paid off perfectly.
“You have to tip your hat to him — he pitched really well,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “Bob Melvin’s pretty smart. If he had any doubt at all, he wouldn’t have pitched Anderson in this game, so I’m not surprised at all that he did a great job.”
Detroit managed only four hits, including two in the final seven innings — a broken-bat dribbler by Jhonny Peralta in the seventh and a sharp single by Miguel Cabrera with one out in the ninth. Four pitches after Cabrera’s single, Oakland closer Grant Balfour got Prince Fielder to hit into, what else, a game-ending double play.
“They did a great job against us tonight,” Gerald Laird said. “We know we’re a good offensive club, but they are here because they have good pitching and a good bullpen.
“We just have to keep going and win one more. It doesn’t matter how we do it as long as we get one.”
Fielder could have easily been Detroit’s offensive hero, but he was robbed by three big defensive plays by Oakland.
In the second inning, Coco Crisp made a sensational catch to pull a Fielder homer back into the ball park. After Stephen Drew ranged behind second base to throw Fielder out in his next at-bat, Yoenis Cespedes robbed him of extra bases with a diving catch in left-centerfield.
“We’re still up 2-1, so we’ve got to come back tomorrow,” Fielder said. “Obviously, we wanted to win today, but they are a good team.
“All we need to do is score more runs than they do on one day. Today’s frustrating, but good teams make plays, and you are only playing good teams in the playoffs.”
Leyland thought that Oakland’s defense, which also turned two double plays, was a key to the game.
“Runs have really been a premium at this series, so those defensive plays really gave them some momentum,” Leyland said. “Coco brought one back into the park, and Cespedes also made a great catch. They pretty much played a perfect game tonight.”
The lack of offense wasted a pretty good performance by Anibal Sanchez, who gave up only two runs on five hits in 6 1/3 innings. Sanchez allowed a first-inning run on a Cespedes single — the third straight game where Oakland had scored first — and a fifth-inning homer to his nemesis, Seth Smith. In 15 career at-bats against Sanchez, Smith is hitting .467 with three homers.
“It’s a good win for them, but we’re still winning the series,” Sanchez said. “We just have to come out tomorrow and try to end it.”
Game 4 will be Wednesday night at 9:30 p.m. on TNT. FOX Sports Detroit will have a 60-minute postgame show.