Brett Anderson prevents A's from early elimination

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Brett Anderson prevents A's from early elimination

From Comcast SportsNet
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- The Oakland Athletics will play another day in this improbable season full of remarkable rallies.These A's never count themselves out -- down and doubted is their dogma.Brett Anderson outdueled fellow postseason first-timer Anibal Sanchez and the upstart Athletics showed off stellar defense all over the diamond, avoiding another playoff sweep by Detroit by beating the Tigers 2-0 Tuesday night in their AL division series.The A's cut their deficit in the best-of-five matchup to 2-1.Coco Crisp, whose misplay dearly cost Oakland in Game 2, saved a likely home run by Prince Fielder with a leaping catch at the top of the center-field wall in the second inning."You see him hit it and you just kind of put your head down a little bit because you think you just gave up a homer," Anderson said. "Then you see him plow through there and catch the ball and it kind of kick starts you to go out there and make pitches."Yoenis Cespedes hit an RBI single in the first inning and Seth Smith homered in the fifth. That was plenty on a night Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera, Fielder and the Tigers' high-priced offense were shut down by the low-budget A's.Tigers 16-game winner Max Scherzer will try to close out the series in Game 4 Wednesday night against A's rookie A.J. Griffin. Detroit swept the A's in the 2006 AL championship series.Fielder was the biggest victim of Oakland's spot-on defense, robbed three times. First by Crisp, Oakland's most experienced player whose blunder on Cabrera's fly allowed two runs to score in a 5-4 loss Sunday in Detroit."Not to be all over-confident or anything, I think I'm going to catch everything out there," Crisp said. "Obviously it doesn't happen that way -- duh Detroit, right?"Crisp let out a big "Whoo!" after raising his arm to signal he'd made the grab."Coco's catch, the ball was out of the ballpark and it came back," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "The key to that play was he was playing deep and that enabled him to get into a spot to get up and make the catch. And it was a great catch, no doubt about it."A's shortstop Stephen Drew made a tough play running to his left to stop Fielder's grounder in the fourth and then threw to first while still off balance and in motion.Then, in the seventh, Cespedes cut over to make a diving catch on Fielder's liner to left field.That delighted the yellow towel-waving sellout crowd of 37,090 in this blue-collar city."It's frustrating. But it's a good team you're playing," Fielder said. "They're going to make those plays, that's why they're here."After Cabrera singled with one out in the ninth, Fielder grounded into a game-ending double play.The A's own the lowest payroll in baseball at 59.5 million. Fielder is getting big money in Motown: 214 million over nine years.Anderson, back on the mound for the first time since straining a muscle in his right side Sept. 19 at Detroit, worked quickly and showed no signs of a layoff or jitters in his first postseason start.That's just not the way the A's have operated this year.Last week, Oakland entered its final three-game series of the regular season needing to sweep the two-time reigning AL champion Rangers to capture the AL West -- and the A's did it, sending a stunned Texas team to the one-game wild card, which it lost to Baltimore.A club with a majors-best 14 walkoff wins and countless whipped cream pie celebrations snapped the longest postseason skid in franchise history at six games. All of those against the Tigers, too.The Tigers are trying to reach second straight AL championship series after losing last year's ALCS in six games to the Rangers.Detroit captured the AL Central in Oakland last year and is hoping for another clinching party as soon as possible.Anderson did his job to delay it.He insisted he was healthy and ready to go -- and manager Bob Melvin took his pitcher at his word and gave him a shot in his biggest start yet. Anderson had shown plenty when he returned in August following a 14-month absence recovering from elbow-ligament replacement surgery and made six impressive starts.Not feeling quite 100 percent, he allowed two hits, struck out six and walked two in six innings. He was on a pitch count of 80 and was done at exactly that, though was never told about it beforehand."I don't know how you could expect more than we got out of him tonight," Melvin said.Next, the reliable bullpen took over.Ryan Cook pitched the seventh, Sean Doolittle struck out the side in order in the eighth and closer Grant Balfour finished the four-hitter for a save. The A's staff pitched the 11th postseason shutout by the franchise, while the Tigers were blanked for the 13th time in the postseason.The A's had lost five straight while facing elimination in the postseason, one shy of the longest active streak by the Twins.But this group has defied expectations ever since the first full workout at spring training back in February when the A's lost third baseman Scott Sizemore to a season-ending knee injury. Opening day starter Brandon McCarthy took a line drive to the head Sept. 5 and needed brain surgery. Starter Bartolo Colon was suspended for 50 games in August for a positive testosterone test.Oakland became the first team in major league history to win the division or pennant after trailing by five or more games with fewer than 10 to go. The A's were five back of the Rangers with nine left, then won their final six all at home with sweeps of Seattle and Texas.Smith hit a towering drive to the deepest part of center field in the fifth for yet another timely home run for the A's, whose 112 longballs after the All-Star break led the majors."That's how you win postseason baseball games, with pitching and defense and timely hitting," Smith said. "We had that. We got two runs and that's all we needed. Anderson was great and our defense was, too."Sanchez gave up five hits and two runs in 6 1-3 innings, struck out three and walked two.NOTES:Smith hit his first postseason homer and third lifetime against Sanchez in 15 at-bats. ... At 24 years, 251 days, Anderson became the fifth-youngest pitcher in Oakland history to make his first career postseason start. ... Both Bay Area teams avoided elimination after the NL West champion San Francisco Giants won at Cincinnati earlier in the night. ... Oakland sold out for the eighth time this year and second straight -- the regular-season finale vs. Texas drew 36,067 -- including 1,000 standing-room only tickets and extra suite sales. It was the biggest crowd at the Coliseum since drawing 43,974 against the Yankees on Sept. 4, 2005, before the upper decks were tarped.

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Nats weight home field advantage against staying healthy as playoffs near

Nats weight home field advantage against staying healthy as playoffs near

Though they’re still fighting for home field advantage in next week’s division series, the Nationals understand they’re in a strange part of their season.  

Sure, playoff seeding is plenty important. These last regular season games count, et cetera et cetera. But Washington already clinched the NL East title, and already knows its playoff opponent is going to be the Los Angeles Dodgers. So it’s not a surprise that players are willing to admit how difficult it can be to keep their foot on the gas pedal these days.

“Once you win the division, there’s that exhale, that sigh of relief,” said Jayson Werth after Friday night’s 7-4 loss to the Miami Marlins.”..You kind of let off the throttle a little bit.”

And when a team takes that approach, health becomes the top priority. It’s a mindset that was on full display Friday night when Werth was removed from the game in the seventh inning as a precaution due to back and side tightness.

 “We can't afford to lose anybody else,” manager Dusty Baker said. “So we decided that, it was wet, on the chilly side, and I decided I couldn't take a chance on him being injured too.”

Werth said that team trainers ruled out a strain or a pull, and that he’d be surprised if he wasn’t in the lineup on Saturday afternoon.  

Still, any injury the Nats suffer this time of the year feels magnified, especially given the last week: Bryce Harper jammed his left thumb, Wilson Ramos tore his ACL and Daniel Murphy was shut down until the playoffs with a glute strain. Not to mention that Stephen Strasburg will likely miss the club’s entire October run.

“The biggest thing is right now is to get everybody healthy for the postseason,” Stephen Drew said. “I think that's key. We got some guys out and hopefully we'll be ready for the playoffs.”

So while every team says it’d like to head into the postseason firing on all cylinders, the Nats’ case shows that it’s not always realistic. Bottling up momentum and carrying into the biggest games of the year is the ideal, of course. But sometimes heading into the tournament with all your horses in tact works too — seeding be damned.

“Obviously home field advantage is important to us, and we want that,” Werth said. “But at the same time, we also feel like we’ve done our job a little bit. So there’s a balance there.....you don’t want to do something where you can put yourself in jeopardy, where you can really get hurt.”

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Orioles magic number reduced to 2 with win over Yankees

Orioles magic number reduced to 2 with win over Yankees

NEW YORK—In a dramatic week for the Orioles, this may have been the most difficult day. 

Seven days ago, the Orioles came off a four-game sweep by the Boston Red Sox that finished their hopes of an American League East championship, and since then they’ve won six of seven games and are within two games of their third trip to the postseason in the last five seasons. 

This day was challenging because of the persistent rain that fell throughout the game and continued during it. Major League Baseball was determined to play the game, and the Orioles simply ignored the foul weather and pulled off an 8-1 win on Friday night over the New York Yankees before a crowd announced at 33,955 at Yankee Stadium. 

The crowd was in fact thousands smaller than the announced figure, and the several thousand on hand braved game time temperatures of 56 degrees, wind and rain.

The conditions were deplorable. Rain fell throughout the day, but Major League Baseball was determined to play on Friday night, and the Orioles didn’t let the awful weather deter them as they moved a step closer to the postseason. 

With their 8-1 win over the New York Yankees before 33,955 at Yankee Stadium, the Orioles reduced their magic number to two for clinching a postseason spot. 

Toronto, which began the game tied with the Orioles (88-72) for the top wild-card spot, lost to Boston, giving the Orioles the top wild-card spot. Detroit, which beat Atlanta, is trailing by 1 ½ games.

“That’s about as tough as you ever want to play in,” manager Buck Showalter said. “That was tough, you really got to be ready to play.” 

Showalter claims not to do too much scoreboard watching. 

“Not much at all until I had no choice because it was right behind the pitcher’s head every time I looked out there. I caught a couple glimpses, but I don’t watch it that much. I really don’t. I watch our scoreboard a lot,” Showalter said. 

In the past several seasons, Yankee Stadium hasn’t been kind to the Orioles. They’d lost 11 straight series openers since their last win on Aug. 31, 2012. 

Yovani Gallardo bulled through the conditions, and allowed a run on two hits in six innings. 

“It was hard to grip the ball and that sort of thing, and slipping off the mound and whatever. It gets tough for everybody in the field, but my main focus was after we got the lead was get the guys to swing the bat, throw the ball over the plate,” Gallardo said. 

“The last thing you want to do is start walking guys and getting yourself into trouble. When I did, I was able to make some pitches.”

Gallardo (6-8) didn’t allow a hit until the fourth inning when Brian McCann singled. Gary Sanchez scored when the next batter, Mark Teixeira hit a sacrifice fly to left. 

Aaron Hicks singled to start the fifth, but Gallardo didn’t allow another hit. 

The Orioles offense went to work and their eight runs were the most since Sept. 10. 

Jonathan Schoop equaled his career high with five RBIs, a two-run double in the fourth and a three-run homer, his 25th of the season, that capped a six-run fifth inning. 

Adam Jones hit his 29th home run to lead off the inning against Michael Pineda (6-12), and Mark Trumbo hit a two-run homer, his major league leading 47th to chase Pineda. 

“We got a power team, and everybody is capable of catching one. The power is just one thing. We pitch, we defend, and we prove that we score not only when we hit home runs. We score when we move the runner over, sac fly, everything. We're a really good team,” Schoop said. 

Gallardo, and Darren O’Day who pitched the eighth, are two players who could play pivotal roles if the Orioles get to the postseason. 

Gallardo isn’t certain of making the postseason roster, and O’Day, who has been hurt much of the year, delivered a spotless eighth inning. 

“That was good tonight, especially in those conditions. If we could get in, he’d be a nice piece for us to add that we’ve been missing. That was encouraging tonight,” Showalter said. 

NOTES: The Orioles are the 12th team in major league Trumbo’s 47th home run ties Chris Davis (2015) for the fourth most home runs in team history. … Wade Miley (9-13, 5.40) faces Luis Severino (3-8, 5.75) on Saturday at 4:05 p.m. The six runs in the fifth were the most the Orioles scored in the fifth inning this season. … The three home run inning was the Orioles’ 10th this season, most in the majors. … The Orioles became the fifth major league team to hit 250 home runs.