OAKLAND -- A's manager Bob Melvin said Monday morning he didn't think his lineup or that of the Detroit Tigers would lay dormant forever after combining for six runs over the first two games of this A.L. Division Series.
"Both teams have good offenses," Melvin said. "And you would expect both to break out a little bit more."
The A's then did just that against the league's ERA leader in the regular season, Tigers right-hander Anibal Sanchez, hitting three home runs off Sanchez during a 6-3 win at Comerica Park to move within one win of taking the series and advancing to the ALCS.
Josh Reddick, Brandon Moss and Seth Smith all homered off Sanchez, and right-hander Jarrod Parker and three relievers combined to hold the Tigers scoreless outside of a three-run fourth inning. It's the 15th time the A's have taken a 2-1 lead in a postseason series; of the previous 14, they've gone on to win 11 times.
Grant Balfour, who blew a save here in August, closed the game with a scoreless ninth. Both benches cleared in the inning after Balfour threw a 1-2 pitch to Victor Martinez that Martinez fouled back. Balfour and Martinez began barking at one another and walking toward each other, which prompted the brief interlude in which no punches were thrown.
Right-hander Dan Straily will start Game 4 of the series Tuesday against Doug Fister with the time of game still up in the air. Right now the game is scheduled to begin at 2:07 p.m. PT. But if the Boston Red Sox beat the Tampa Bay Rays this evening to win that series, start time of the A's and Tigers tomorrow would be pushed back to 4:07 p.m.
Smith was the forgotten man in the A's outfield in the final month of the season, starting just seven games, though he did go 11-for-28 in September. After Smith had two hits in Game 2, Melvin wrote him into the lineup again Monday to face Sanchez, against whom Smith entered the game 7-for-19 lifetime.
Smith responded with two hits off Sanchez including a two-run homer in the fifth, a high fly ball to left-center that carried on a breezy day in Detroit just over the short fence into the bullpen. That ended Sanchez's day after 4 1/3 innings and 101 pitches. Sanchez had allowed just nine home runs total during the regular season and four in 14 starts at home.
After putting their leadoff man aboard in each of the first two innings but failing to score, the A's capitalized in the third with the help of a Miguel Cabrera error. Coco Crisp led off the inning with a single and Josh Donaldson walked, but after Sanchez struck out Jed Lowrie and Moss, Yoenis Cespedes hit a sharp grounder that Cabrera could not handle, allowing Crisp to score the game's first run.
Reddick then led off the fourth by hitting Sanchez's 2-2 pitch into the seats in right field. Catcher Stephen Vogt followed with a triple and, two batters later, scored on Crisp's sacrifice fly to medium-deep left field, where shortstop-turned-outfielder Jhonny Peralta made the catch but made a throw home that died after its first hop.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland inserted Peralta into his lineup Monday with hopes of jogging his own offense, acknowledging Peralta represented a defense downgrade. But the flipside showed in the bottom of the fourth, when Peralta hit a two-run single off Parker to cap the Tigers' three-run inning.
Martinez had driven in the first run with a double that snapped Detroit's streak of 20 consecutive scoreless innings in the series. That equaled their scoreless stretch in last year's World Series, when they were swept in four games by the San Francisco Giants.
It tied the game at 3-3 and gave a daytime crowd of 43,973 at Comerica Park something to wave their white towels about, but Sanchez was unable to respond with a shut-down inning. Moss, whose 30 home runs in the regular season led the team, hit a one-out home run to right, and after Cespedes singled off Sanchez, Smith made it 6-3 with his homer.
The Tigers put a runner on in each of the next five innings but could not advance him past first base, twice grounding into double plays against an A's team that turned the fewest double plays in the majors during the regular season.
With the win, the A's wrested back the home-field advantage they lost by splitting the first two games of the series at home. They have seemed very comfortable, though, in five games this year at Comerica Park. Including a four-game series in late August, the A's have scored 40 runs and hit 10 homers in five games in Detroit.
-- Matt Kawahara