Detroit's Max Scherzer masters A's in 3-2 win

  • Yoenis Cespedes of Oakland smacks a two-run home run in the bottom of the 7th inning against the Tigers, during the first game of the ALDS in Oakland, Friday Oct. 4, 2013. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2013

OAKLAND — Either Yoenis Cespedes' English isn't up to speed yet, or there simply is no translation for "Scherzer." Cespedes, the Athletics' Cuban-born, second-year slugger, figured out Detroit Tigers starter Max Scherzer from the start Friday night. Unfortunately for the A's, Scherzer remained an unsolvable mystery to Cespedes' teammates.

Scherzer was dominant for vast stretches of Game 1 of the American League Division Series on Friday at the Oakland Coliseum, and survived some dents by Cespedes in Detroit's 3-2 victory.

The series resumes today, with A's rookie Sonny Gray going head to head with Justin Verlander.

Oakland A's vs. Detroit Tigers ALDS Game 1


Verlander was the Tigers' ace last year, when they got past the A's in five games in the ALDS en route to the World Series, where they lost to the Giants. This year, there is no question that Scherzer is the team's best pitcher — and the league's. At 21-3, he was baseball's only 20-game winner. He was second in the AL with 240 strikeouts and a .198 opponents' batting average, fifth in ERA at 2.90.

Scherzer was at least that good against eight places in the A's batting order, baffling the home team with a combination of live fastballs the mid-90s (and occasionally pushing the needle to 97 or 98 miles per hour) and a deadly changeup in the mid-80s. He's known as a fastball pitcher, but he frequently used the changeup as his strikeout pitch Friday night — and he had a bunch of those, whiffing 11 A's in seven innings.

Scherzer's dominance was best illustrated in bottom of the fourth inning when he faced the heart of the A's order: No. 3 hitter Josh Donaldson, No. 4 Brandon Moss and No. 5 Cespedes. Scherzer struck them out in succession, throwing just three balls in the inning.

His night would have a breeze were it not for Cespedes, winner of the Home Run Derby at this year's All-Star Game. He drilled a triple over the head of left fielder Andy Dirks in the second inning, but was stranded at third base. It was in the seventh that Cespedes dragged the crowd into this game.

The sold-out stadium was ready to rock from the outset, but fell into a relative hush as Scherzer cruised through six innings. But after Moss led off the seventh with an infield single, Cespedes awakened the masses by crushing a fastball deep into the left-field seats to cut Oakland's deficit to 3-2.

Suddenly, the yellow towels waved like a giant, circular field of wheat as Cespedes joined Rickey Henderson as the only A's player to notch a homer and a triple in a postseason game.

The Athletics, however, never got another runner past first base. Scherzer got out of the seventh, and Detroit relievers Dan Smyly and Joaquin Benoit were just as tough on Oakland batters over the last two innings, combining to strike out five of eight batters. That included Cespedes, gunned down by Benoit in the bottom of the ninth on a splitter down and in. Benoit got Josh Reddick swinging to end the game — the A's 16th strikeout of the game.

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