Athletics 6, Tigers 3
Oakland has beaten Detroit with both pitching and power. And that’s left the Tigers on the brink of elimination — and simmering with frustration.
Brandon Moss, Josh Reddick and Seth Smith homered for the visiting Athletics, who chased Anibal Sanchez in the fifth inning Monday and defeated the Tigers for a 2-1 American League Division Series lead.
Moss broke a 3-all tie in the fifth with a solo shot, and Smith’s two-run drive later in the inning ended Sanchez’s day. It was an impressive offensive show after the teams split two taut, low-scoring games in Oakland.
This one got a little tense in the ninth, too, when A’s closer Grant Balfour and Tigers hitter Victor Martinez started shouting at each other after a foul ball, causing benches and bullpens to empty.
“I don’t know what happened. Honestly, I know that Balfour is fiery on the mound — he’s yelling a lot and spitting everywhere,” Moss said. “It’s who he is. You know, sometimes it can ruffle the feathers of other teams.”
The A’s aren’t worried about making friends, especially after losing to the Tigers in a five-game division series last year. Oakland can close out this series today and reach the AL Championship Series for the first time since 2006 — when the Athletics were swept by the Tigers.
Sanchez, the American League’s ERA leader, allowed six runs — five earned — and eight hits in 4⅓ innings. Smith has homered off Sanchez more than any other player, having now done it twice in the regular season and twice in the playoffs.
There was activity in the Detroit bullpen before Smith’s homer Monday, and he made the Tigers pay for sticking with the struggling Sanchez.
“Sometimes he starts out a little slow, you figure he’s going to get it going,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “Today he just really didn’t get it going. He made a couple of real bad pitches the last inning he was out there to Moss and Smith.”
Jarrod Parker gave up three runs in five innings for Oakland, and the Tigers couldn’t rally against the bullpen.
Balfour pitched a hitless ninth for the save. Martinez had just hit a foul ball when he started looking back at Balfour, who yelled something at the designated hitter.
Martinez started slowly toward the mound, and players from both teams came running out. The situation eventually calmed and no players were ejected. Plate umpire Gary Darling said warnings were sufficient.
“I said, ‘Why you staring me down like that?’ ” Balfour said. “He was staring me down. He knew what he was doing.”
Martinez said Balfour threw in a profanity when he yelled toward the plate.
“I’m not a rookie. I’m a veteran, and I’m a leader on my teams. I don’t take that,” Martinez said while including a few profane words of his own during his explanation. “He can’t intimidate me.”
Oakland lost the opener in this series before evening it with a 1-0 win in Game 2. That victory came in a pitchers’ duel between Oakland’s Sonny Gray and Detroit’s Justin Verlander, and with Sanchez set to start for the Tigers on Monday, it looked like the A’s might need another brilliant performance on the mound from Parker.
But they had Sanchez in trouble almost immediately, scoring a run in the third and two more in the fourth. Although the Tigers finally snapped out of their offensive funk with a three-run fourth, Sanchez couldn’t keep the ball in the park.
Moss hit a line drive over the wall in right to make it 4-3, and Smith’s high fly carried over the fence in left-center.
Coco Crisp had two doubles and a single for the A’s.
Oakland won the AL West title and had a better record than Detroit, but it was the AL Central-champion Tigers who entered with the big names and the big payroll.
Now Detroit needs two straight wins to extend its season.
Rays 5, Red Sox 4
Jose Lobaton hit a solo home run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning and host Tampa Bay staved off elimination once again, beating Boston.
The Rays cut Boston’s lead in the best-of-five AL Division Series to 2-1. Game 4 is tonight, with Jake Peavy starting for the Red Sox against Jeremy Hellickson.
Tampa Bay took a win-or-go-home game for the fourth time in nine days. The Rays did it with an unlikely stroke as Lobaton, who came off the bench late in the game, connected against Red Sox closer Koji Uehara.
Lobaton’s shot wound up in the giant fish tank beyond the wall at Tropicana Field.
Evan Longoria’s two-out, three-run homer in the fifth off Clay Buchholz rallied the Rays to a 3-all tie.
Delmon Young, who has a penchant for driving home key runs in October, put Tampa Bay ahead 4-3 with an RBI grounder in the eighth.
The Red Sox tied it in the ninth against Rays closer Fernando Rodney. Dustin Pedroia’s RBI grounder made it 4-all.
Rodney got the win when Lobaton homered to right-center field.