Updated at: 10/09/2012 11:05 PM
By ANTONIO GONZALEZ
(AP) OAKLAND, Calif. - Prince Fielder halted his home run trot when Coco Crisp snagged his fly at the top of the center-field wall in the second. He stopped stunned when shortstop Stephen Drew robbed a single from him in the fourth, and he slowed his sprint around first when Yoenis Cespedes made a diving catch in left in the seventh.
"I tried to go under coverage," Fielder said. "I couldn’t go over it."
Or through it, either.
After grounding into a game-inning double play, Fielder and the rest of the Detroit Tigers had to hold off on the most important thing: another celebration.
Fielder finished 0 for 4 to highlight another poor performance at the plate for the Tigers, losing 2-0 to the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday night in Game 3 of their AL division series. Detroit leads the best-of-five series 2-1. Game 4 is Wednesday night in Oakland.
"They played a perfect game," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. "Coco’s catch really got them into it and it was a good baseball game. Runs are at a premium right now."
The Tigers’ high-priced lineup could squeeze only four hits out of Brett Anderson, three relievers and the rest of the low-budget A’s to spoil a solid start from fellow playoff newcomer Anibal Sanchez. Even more troubling, they have only one RBI off a hit _ a solo home run by Alex Avila in Game 1 _ in four games of this series, a troubling trend Leyland simply said before Tuesday’s game had to change if the Tigers "want to close this thing out at some point."
Even the balls Detroit hit hard didn’t drop.
Prince, who signed a $214 million, nine-year deal as a free agent from Milwaukee in the offseason, had perhaps the most frustrating night of all of Detroit’s sluggers.
Crisp jumped against the padding, reached his glove at the top of the wall and made the grab leading off the second, forcing a stunned Fielder to stop his trot before second base. Crisp, who had a two-run error trying to make a basket catch on Miguel Cabrera’s fly in Game 2, flexed his arms and screamed, "Whoo!"
"I thought I had a hit," Fielder said.
In the fourth, Drew dug out a grounder in the hole at short and threw across his body to nab Fielder at first. Then Cespedes, moving in and to his left, fully extended for a diving catch to get Fielder for the first out of the seventh. And after Cabrera singled in the ninth, Fielder hit a weak grounder to short for an easy double play.
What a Bay Area bummer for Detroit.
"It’s frustrating," Fielder said. "But it’s a good team you’re playing. They’re going to make those plays. That’s why they’re here."
Trying to avoid a sweep and extend Oakland’s season at least one more day, Cespedes hit an RBI single off Sanchez to put the A’s ahead in the first and Seth Smith homered in the fifth. Each highlight ignited a gold towel-waving crowd announced at 37,090, only the eighth sellout at the Coliseum all season.
Sanchez, a midseason acquisition from the Miami Marlins who was steady down the stretch, allowed five hits and two walks in 6 1-3 innings. He struck out three.
"We hit it hard," Sanchez said. "But we hit it to their outfielders."
Detroit’s recent history of celebration at the Coliseum seemed to be only a matter of time after taking the first two games at home.
The Tigers clinched the AL Central last year in Oakland. They also swept the A’s out of their last playoff series _ in four games of the 2006 AL championship series.
None of the current A’s were on the team then, and only two were even in the organization. The task seemed daunting for Oakland: win three straight at home against Detroit. Then again, this A’s team has accomplished some impressive feats all season, including a major league-best 14 walk-off wins _ all celebrated with whipped-cream pies _ and taking three in a row from the two-time reigning AL champion Texas Rangers to win the AL West crown on the final day of the season.
Now it’s Detroit trying to avoid the same fate.
Rookie right-hander A.J. Griffin is scheduled to start for Oakland in Game 4 against Max Scherzer. Game 5 would be in Oakland on Thursday, and Detroit ace Justin Verlander is ready to retake the mound if necessary.
"I don’t feel like anybody on our team is pressing, per say," left fielder Andy Dirks said. "He pitched a good game. Sometimes you just have to tip your hat, `He did a good job tonight. Go get `em tomorrow.’"
Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)