Here is a link to my Saturday column about Game 1 between the A’s and Tigers. The full text appears below.
OAKLAND — This was not a despair game, the first game of the League Division Series, A’s against the Tigers. If you’re an A’s fan remember that. The game was, in its way, thrilling, revealing, glorious, if a 3-2 loss — any loss — can be glorious.
The A’s gave it up right away. Starting pitcher Bartolo Colon gave it up. It’s what happens with power pitchers, even the best of them. And Colon is among the best of them.
He needs time for his mechanics to even out, to get all those gears and valves and screws working together. His pitches were up, hittable. In the first inning, he gave up three runs on four hits, and he looked tired and old — he’s an ancient 40. After each pitch, he turned his back to the mound and lumbered up the hill, trudged up the hill, the effort massive. He was a man with a burden, someone causing himself problems.
But he got his machinery to work, gave up no runs after that. All A’s pitchers gave up no runs after that. And the A’s came back, made it a game, made it a crowd-screaming, any-team’s game. And all this reminded you who the A’s are.
They wait. They wait to get you. Sometimes they fall behind but they come back. They play ball. And they fight. They spit in anyone’s eye.
In the bottom of the seventh, Yoenis Cespedes hit — absolutely crushed — a two-run home run over the left-field wall. The Tigers led 3-2. And you thought, “Sure, the A’s will come back. It’s what they do.”
But the A’s could not get over on the Tigers’ pitchers, could not finish off the incomparable Max Scherzer — 11 strikeouts. Cespedes’ homer was only the A’s third hit of the game — and that’s what the A’s finished with, three hits. They also struck out 16 times.
Josh Reddick (three strikeouts) and Daric Barton (three strikeouts) and Brandon Moss (three strikeouts) looked lost, not like big leaguers.
But they were facing Scherzer, who is from another planet. It wasn’t just Reddick and Barton and Moss. All the A’s hitters looked lost.
And you wonder if the A’s are up to the Tigers’ pitching staff. And you wonder if the Tigers, those big-name pitchers and hitters from the Midwest, are simply overpowering?“
The answer is “no.”
The A’s can hit and the Tigers are over-rated hitters. Really they are. Miguel Cabrera, known as the best hitter in the world, can’t swing because his groin hurts, can’t hit for power, can’t even run. In the eighth inning, he hit a grounder to third. Josh Donaldson bobbled it.
An average runner could have beaten the throw. E5. But Cabrera doesn’t run. He moves. He exhibits locomotion to an extent. Donaldson threw him out — 5-3.
Cabrera did almost nothing in the game. Cabrera is not Cabrera. He is a Cabrera look-alike.
Remember that. Remember that neither Cabrera nor Prince Fielder is hitting. Fielder is traditionally a miserable postseason hitter. He doesn’t seem to pull the ball anymore. Remember that. Remember the Tigers are vulnerable.
And remember this. The Tiger’s bullpen is not like the A’s bullpen. Tigers’ manager Jim Leyland stays with his starters a long time. He needs to. His starters get tired. Scherzer got tired. The Tigers are vulnerable.
You have to wait them out. The A’s are waiters. They are always in the game.
Here is Scherzer on what happened in the seventh inning, what happened when Tigers manager Jim Leyland came to the mound to talk after Cespedes’ homer:
“Usually he makes a signal if he wants a pitcher pretty early and I didn’t see him do that. And there are times when he will come out and ask you how you’re doing. And at that time, I felt like I had bullets left and I could execute pitches, all my pitches at that point in time, even though there was three lefties coming up.
“I told him I still thought I had something left in the tank if he wanted it and he said, ‘It’s yours.’ So, that was the conversation and the mentality, ‘Keep it right here and battle through this seventh inning, because this is a big part of the game.’”
After the game, Leyland came to the interview room. He is so unexpected in person. He is little. His pants are baggy, especially in the seat. He looks like an old man in old-man pants, which he is. You don’t expect him to be a sure Hall of Fame big-league skipper who handles modern-day players like nobody’s business.
You see him as someone who owns a heating duct company. He drives to your house in his neat white van with the sign on the side, “Clean as a Whistle Ducts.” He walks into your house and goes down to the basement. You hear him moving things around down there. You hear him mutter and sigh. You worry about cost.
He comes up dusty and cob-webby and utters the unbeatable line, “You’re looking at … ” But the figure he will charge is reasonable and you never once doubt his honesty because he’s salt of the Earth.
The duct man said of his offense, “Obviously, we feel like we’re going to need to add on some runs. That was the one thing that might have been disappointing. We jumped ’em real quick and then we couldn’t get a lot else going. And we’re going to need to do that better.We were fortunate enough that our pitching held on and we win Game 1.”
He’s right. His team was fortunate. And come on, more than 48,000 excited fans showed up at the Coliseum waving gold rags. The green tarps, which look like coffin covers, were off the upper deck.
The old place was alive, ball in October, the best kind of ball. Baseball in this maligned old yard in this maligned city. As the young people say, “It’s all good.”
Why? Because nothing definitive happened in Game 1. It was a ballgame the A’s lost, nothing more. They play more games, play to a conclusion. The Tigers are there to be taken. Can the A’s take them?
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at firstname.lastname@example.org.