OAKLAND -- The A's had the pitching and defense to win Tuesday night.
Now they have hope.
Buoyed by a terrific outing from left-hander Brett Anderson, the A's blanked the Detroit Tigers 2-0 in Game 3 of the American League Division Series. They staved off elimination and now trail 2-1 in the best-of-five series, with Game 4 set for Wednesday night at the Oakland Coliseum.
"It's good to go home and enjoy this one game," A's catcher Derek Norris said. "For a lot of us, it is our first playoff win. But once your head hits the pillow, you gotta wake up and come back with the same mentality."
It's hard to say that one victory swings the advantage into the A's favor. They send rookie A.J. Griffin to the hill Wednesday, and he has been shaky over his past four starts.
But if there was a blueprint for victory the A's could have drawn up, Tuesday's game followed it to a 'T' in front of a sold-out crowd of 37,090 gold towel-waving fans.
Anderson, making his first start in nearly three weeks after straining his oblique, delivered six shutout innings, snapping off a wicked curveball and allowing not a single ball out of the infield after the second.
The A's scored a run in the first inning, added to the lead with Seth Smith's homer in the fifth and then turned things over to its bullpen. Ryan Cook, Sean Doolittle and Grant Balfour rebounded from Sunday's poor display to shut the Tigers down over the final three innings.
"Their bullpen is really nasty," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "Cook, Doolittle, Balfour -- they're really good. And their starter tonight gave them what they needed. It set up perfect for them tonight. They took advantage of that and they earned it."
If Anderson earned top billing, the defense behind him certainly deserves credit too.
Center fielder Coco Crisp, whose drop of a catchable fly ball led to two runs in Sunday's loss, stole a home run from Prince Fielder in the second. He leapt high to snatch Fielder's drive that would have cleared the wall.
Leyland cited that play as a true momentum turner, and Anderson agreed.
"You see him hit it and you kinda put your head down a little bit," Anderson said. "You feel like you just gave up a homer. Then you see him fly through the air and catch the ball. It kick-starts you to go out and make pitches."
It just wasn't Fielder's night. He was also robbed on a liner to left in the seventh, when Yoenis Cespedes made an excellent tumbling catch. Representing the tying run in the ninth against Balfour, Fielder grounded into a game-ending double play.
There was question over how effective Anderson would be after his prolonged layoff, or whether he would even make it through the outing healthy.
But he was dialed in from the get-go, allowing just two hits and walking two in six innings.
"You could just see it from the first inning, some of the swings they were taking," Norris said. "They weren't taking good swings at all. He's just so deceptive."
Anderson was pulled at exactly 80 pitches, which is what manager Bob Melvin said Anderson's limit was -- though he didn't tell the lefty that beforehand.
"As he's sitting over there now, he probably still doesn't know there was a pitch count," Melvin said, motioning to Anderson in the interview room. "He tends to argue some during the course of the game."
Smith's homer in the fifth off Anibal Sanchez added important cushion. Smith came in 6 for 13 with two homers in his career against Sanchez.
Wednesday: Detroit (Max Scherzer 16-7) at Oakland (A.J. Griffin 7-1), 6:37 p.m. TNT
Game 4 starter A.J. Griffin will be out to reverse late slide.
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