Friday, October 13, 2006

Tigers put choke hold on A's

Detroit earns near-insurmountable 3-0 series lead with 3-0 victory in Game 3 The Gambler was dealin' again as Rogers threw 7.1 scoreless innings

LP: Harden
SV: Jones(3)
HRs: DET: Monroe

Call it karma. Call it fate. Call it getting the monkey off a city's back after 19 years of frustration.
But whatever you wanna call it, it's now apparent that Detroit has got it, and it's riding that special something right into the World Series.
Neither cold nor (threat of) snow nor Oakland's pitchers could stop the runaway train, sorry, GM automobile, that is this Tiger team. They set the tempo right off the bat when, despite the opening pitch temp of 44 degrees, Game 1 hero Brandon Inge made a headlong dive into the stands to snag Mark Kotsay's foul ball. Total disregard for his body, the weather, the circumstances, just pure determination to make the play. That's how the Tigers have been playing ever since the Game 1 blowout loss to New York in the ALDS. And that's why they are on the verge of their first Series birth since that magical 1984 season.
Kenny the Cameraman Clubber made another brilliant playoff start, continuing to erase memories of his early career postseason failures (FOX showed the classic footage of him giving up the bases loaded walk to Andruw Jones in the 1999 NLCS.) The Gambler tossed 7.1 innings of 2-hit shutout ball, and you just knew that after rusty Oakland starter Rich Harden (5.2, 5H, 3R, 5BBs) gave up 2 in the first that might be all Rogers would need today. And it was.

Detroit put the deuce on the board in the opening frame when Harden couldn't get acclimated to either the weather or big league players after getting battered in a Fall Ball tuneup start in Arizona Monday. Harden missed 3 1/2 months with elbow problems this year, and the call to give him the start instead of rested & healthy Danny Haren will be second, third & quadruple-guessed in the Bay area for months. He was behind on every batter and started the game by walking Grandy (3BBs, 1 SB, 1R) and gave up singles to Monroe & Polanco (6-6 career off Harden) for the 1-0 lead. A fielders choice scored another run, but Harden escaped further damage with an inning ending DP.

"Man that is a pretty shot I just hit right there."

But it turns out that there would only be 1 more run scored in the game- Monroe's majestic shot to left field off of Harden leading off the 5th- and Kenny made sure that he wasn't going to blow this one. Fernando Rodney, who is replacing Zumaya while the blowtorch rests his sore wrist, relieved Rogers in the 8th and escaped a mini-jam, then gave way to Todd Jones in the 9th, who recorded his 3rd save of the series. Talk about a complete team victory.

Why did the A's lose, let us count the ways: questionable starter Rich Harden wasn't sharp, they couldn't retire the leadoff man Granderson (3BBs after striking out 174 times this year), they couldn't get any hits (2 total), they made mental mistakes (no one covering 2nd on a steal, couldn't turn a routine DP- again) and they were just completely outplayed in all facets of the game for the third straight game by the suddenly supreme Tigers. When the 2 big guns, Frank Thomas & Nick Swisher, are throwing up a combined 0-17 you are gonna be in trouble. Like 'down 0-3 with a Game 4 tomorrow at 4 in frigid Motown against Yankee-killer Bonderman' trouble.

King Leyland's hunches paid off again. He switched Carlos Guillen to 1st in place of injured Mayor Casey and Guillen made a great play to stay on the bag and escape that 8th inning jam. He also gave 1st career playoff starts to Omar Enfane at DH (1 hit, 1 BB) and Ramon Santiago at SS, who made a beautiful play on a ball hit to the hole for an out that Guillen would never have reached. Trust the Midas touch.
Oakland 2B Mark Kiger became the 1st Major League player to make his MLB debut in a playoff game. Kiger replaced D'Angelo Jimenez in the 8th; Jimenez has not been effective in replacing regular second sacker Mark Ellis, who was lost to a broken finger in the ALDS vs. Minnesota.

"It's like finding a wallet on Friday night and then looking for another one on Saturday and Sunday." Analyst Lou Pinella on why surprise ALDS hero, light-hitting Marco Scutaro, has not produced in the ALCS.


Bust out the "Grillies" cause Detroit's going to the Series!

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