Bartolo Colon hasn’t beaten the Detroit Tigers since 2003, and sadly for the Oakland Athletics, that run of misfortune continued Friday night in Game One of the 2013 American League Division Series.
In the first inning, Colon gave up a flare double into the right field corner, hit a batter, watched a bloop single fall into short center field to score the game’s first run, induced a double-play ball that scored a second run and then watched the ball squib under his first baseman’s glove as the Tigers scored a third time.
And just like that, minutes into the game, it was 3-0, Detroit, and the A’s really never recovered on their way to a 3-2 loss, leaving the 48,401 fans in attendance stunned and sad at the way this one started and finished at the O.co Coliseum.
Colon wasn’t good on the night overall, but he gutted out six innings, surrendering 10 hits, giving his teammates a chance to catch up — which they almost did. But in the end, that fateful first inning was all it took for Oakland to once again lose Game One to the Detroit Tigers. The big righty is now 0-8 against Detroit in 14 starts over the last decade.
The Tigers also won Game One of the 2006 American League Championship Series on their way to a four-game sweep of the A’s, and last year, Detroit beat Oakland in Game One of the 2012 ALDS before eventually closing out the series in the decisive fifth game.
If the A’s want to beat the Tigers in this series and avoid the same fate as those previous two trips to the postseason, they’ll have to do the little things a bit better.
For example, Daric Barton got the start at first base, presumably for his glove, but the squibber he didn’t come up with cost Oakland that decisive third run. Also, with a runner on third base and one out in the second inning, right fielder Josh Reddick struck out — failing to get that runner home in a game the A’s would eventually lose by one run.
Left fielder Yoenis Cespedes did all the damage for Oakland on offense tonight, getting two of the team’s three hits: he hit a one-out triple in the second before getting stranded there as noted, and then the Cuban star — who won the Home Run Derby at the All-Star Game this summer — launched a two-run home run in the sixth inning that brought the A’s to within one run of the lead.
But overall, the Oakland offense flailed away all night, as the A’s managed only six base runners all night and went a rough 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position while striking out a team record 16 times on the evening. Detroit’s pitching staff set an all-time AL record this year for strikeouts, but the A’s were in the top half of the league in avoiding those as hitters this year.
It didn’t seem to matter, though, as because of the first-inning woes for Colon, Oakland’s lineup was on its heels all game long trying to get back into it against Detroit starter Max Scherzer, who went seven innings and struck out 11 while only giving up three hits.
And the A’s just couldn’t get the breaks in this one to make a difference needed for the victory.
Now, Oakland could be in trouble — they lost their home-field advantage in the series quickly, and their reward for that misfire is 2012 playoff nemesis Justin Verlander in Game Two. The A’s stuck it to Verlander the last time they saw him, scoring five runs against the former Cy Young and MVP winner in late August at Comerica Park in Detroit, but considering they also roughed up Scherzer in that same series to a similar tune, it doesn’t mean much now.
Oakland already is in must-win mode for Game Two, which starts at 6:07 p.m. on Saturday night, and the A’s send rookie Sonny Gray to the mound to perhaps save their season.
This is certainly not the way the 16-time AL West division champs wanted their postseason to start, especially after how it ended last year against these same Tigers. But both the history of this resilient team and that of major-league baseball, in general, always tells us it’s never over until it’s actually over.