Bay Area Baseball

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October 7, 2013
Smith, seldom used in September, leads Game 3 power surge

OAKLAND -- Seth Smith's name in the A's lineup was a rare sight in September, when the veteran outfielder started just seven games. Still, when he did play, he was productive at the plate, going 11-for-28 with five extra-base hits in the month.

After not playing in Game 1 of the ALDS against the Tigers, Smith collected two hits in Game 2, and manager Bob Melvin wrote him into the lineup again Monday. It didn't hurt that Smith entered the game 7-for-19 in his career against Detroit starter Anibal Sanchez, with three of the hits being home runs.

Smith responded Monday with two more hits off Sanchez, including a two-run homer in the fifth inning that gave the A's a 6-3 lead -- which held up as the final score -- and got Sanchez out of the game after 4 1/3 innings and 101 pitches.

"In my career I've got practice at not playing for a while and then playing," Smith said, referencing his time as a part-time player in Colorado. "It's the big leagues, especially now it's the postseason, and you're expected to get the job done regardless of what you're asked to do."

Smith's home run was a high fly ball that carried out to left-center field on a breezy day in Detroit. The wind appeared to be blowing from right field to left, but Josh Reddick said the home run "really credits how powerful Seth Smith is the other way."

Asked about his lifetime success against Sanchez, Smith shrugged. "I can't put my finger on anything specific," he said. "He's really good. At no point am I comfortable in an at-bat against him. At no point am I trying to do anything. I'm trying to hope he makes a mistake and hope I can get the barrel on it."

The A's barreled up a few pitches from Sanchez, with Reddick and Brandon Moss adding solo home runs. They continued to pile up the strikeouts against a Detroit staff that led baseball in that category this season -- they have 41 in three games -- but hit three homers off a pitcher who allowed just nine during the regular season and four at home.

"That's our logic with our team -- we're going to strike out, we're going to hit the long ball," Reddick said. "So once we get those going, it's going to be a good day.

"To do it against a guy like Sanchez, who's been great for them all year and hasn't given up a lot of home runs, it does a lot for your confidence going into tomorrow."

Coco Crisp accounted for one of the nine homers Sanchez allowed this season during the A's visit to Detroit in late August. Including that series, the A's this year have scored 40 runs and hit 10 home runs in five games at Comerica Park.

Smith and third baseman Josh Donaldson said they didn't have a good explanation for the A's success in Detroit, with Donaldson saying the offense "just put some good at-bats together today, and (Sanchez) made some mistakes." Moss, though, offered a hypothesis.

"I know that you see the ball better here," Moss said. "The backdrop is good. It's a very good place to see the baseball, which matters a lot when you're facing guys like them."

Moss cautioned that doesn't ensure the A's will hit Doug Fister the same way in Game 4 on Tuesday. Part of what makes the Tigers rotation difficult, Moss said, is that while the four front-line starters all have above-average stuff, they all come at hitters from different angles. With Fister, who stands 6-foot-8, "everything's moving everywhere with a funky angle," Moss said.

The A's did seem to see Fister well during that series in August, when they jumped him for seven runs on 13 hits in five innings of a 14-4 win. Moss said the approach in Game 4, with the A's one win from taking the series and advancing to the ALCS, will be much like that of Game 3 against Sanchez in at least one way: "You go up there and hope you get a mistake."

"Obviously we're happy to be at 2-1," Moss said. "But with that team over there, there is no comfortable lead."

-- Matt Kawahara

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About Bay Area Baseball

Matt KawaharaMatt Kawahara was born in Sacramento and attended McClatchy High School and UC Berkeley, where he wrote for the independent student paper The Daily Californian. He graduated from Cal in 2010 and started at The Sacramento Bee as a summer intern. He joined The Bee’s sports staff in fall 2011.
Email: mkawahara@sacbee.com.
Phone: (916) 321-1015.
On Twitter: @matthewkawahara.

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