A's redeemed again
Coco Crisp, Brett Anderson retrieve Oakland's series and season
OAKLAND, Calif. -- This is the great thing about playing a postseason series rather than a single, loser-out postseason game. One team is still going to win, one team is still going to lose and the number of games played doesn't always increase or lessen either team's chances.
But it sure is a lot more fun for the fans who have waited years for a postseason to see the drama stretch out over a week (or more) rather than abruptly end after a couple of frustrating hours. It's better for the players who are able to atone for an error one day with a great catch another. It's better for a team to be able to demonstrate a little of the resiliency it needed to finish on top during a 162-game season.
And, well, it's pretty much better in every way except for all the additional campaign commercials we wind up watching (or even worse, all those Conan O'Brien ads).
Of course, the Tigers and their fans might feel differently. But heck, Detroit still holds a 2-1 lead in the division series with Oakland, so it can't be too down after Tuesday's 2-0 loss to the Athletics at a raucous Coliseum.
In the meantime, it's great for everyone else to see this series continue at least one more day, especially if it provides the entertainment Game 3 did.
On Tuesday, we got to see Oakland starter Brett Anderson cap a painful, rehab-loaded season by pitching six scoreless innings in his first game in roughly three weeks due to a strained oblique and just his seventh game since needing Tommy John surgery in June of last year.
"I was coming back from Tommy John and able to make some good starts right away, and then I had the oblique injury," said Anderson, who threw 80 pitches and struck out six Tuesday. "You have to deal with that and put it behind you. You really wouldn't write it up this way where you take three weeks off before you make a postseason start when you're down 0-2. But that's kind of the way the season has been for us. We've dealt with adversity every step of the way."
Center fielder Coco Crisp could tell you about that. He atoned for his costly dropped ball Sunday by stealing a probable home run from Prince Fielder with a sensational leaping catch at the wall in the second inning Tuesday. Crisp is an excellent fielder, and he said Sunday's blunder that cost the Athletics two runs in a one-run loss weighed heavily on him.
"I was thinking about it today," said Crisp, who also singled and scored the game's first run in the first inning. "Obviously, confidence is a huge part of this game. And sports in general. Probably a lot of different situations outside of sports, too. I was definitely down on myself. You play like that and you feel like you let everybody down, including yourself. You try your best to man up and get past it. But it is difficult, and I'm very grateful the opportunity came up where I was able to make a play that had a significant outcome on the game."
"You see Prince hit it and you put your head down -- you think you gave up a home run," Anderson said. "And [the catch] kick-starts you to make pitches and get through the innings."
Closer Grant Balfour bounced back as well after taking the loss Sunday with a scoreless ninth inning. More impressive, however, was Oakland reliever Sean Doolittle, who struck out the side in the eighth inning just one year removed from being a minor league first baseman.
"Trust me, it's every bit as crazy to me as it is to everybody else," Doolittle said. "It's not lost on me how weird this is. I was up here for two months, and every day I was driving to the ballpark, I was saying, 'This is crazy. This is ridiculous.'"
Well, the whole Athletics season is ridiculous. This is a team that gets by on IOUs and postdated checks, and looked like it was going to lose 100 games back in spring training. Oakland was in last place and nine games under June 10, and 13 games back when July started. And that was before Bartolo Colon was suspended for performance-enhancing drug use and Brandon McCarthy had brain surgery after being hit in the head by a line drive.
Yet the A's are still alive when preseason favorites Texas, Anaheim, Los Angeles, Boston and Philadelphia are not. They might be trailing 2-1 and starting their third rookie (A.J. Griffin) of the series in Game 4, and their season might be over within 24 hours. But for now, they are giving their fans something to cheer about at the Coliseum for the first time in years other than Hollywood filming scenes here for "Moneyball."
"As electric as it was last Wednesday when we clinched the division, it was even better tonight, with the fans waving those towels," Doolittle said. "They were into it. They were chanting before the first pitch of the game. It's really awesome to be in an environment like that."
It is, for however long it lasts. It's always better to see more baseball rather than begin the winter early by moaning about what could have been. In the magic words of the Oakland PA announcer minutes after Tuesday's final out, "Ladies and gentlemen, there will be baseball here tomorrow night."