'Pen pals: Cook, Doolittle, Balfour dominate Tigers
A's bullpen rises to occasion in crucial must-win contest at home
OAKLAND -- Considering the winning fashion in which Ryan Cook, Sean Doolittle and Grant Balfour perfectly pass the baton to one another, the A's relief trio would seemingly make for a perfect relay track team, albeit with another member in tow.
They're doing all right with a baseball, though.
Oakland's reliable relievers, who were uncharacteristically not on Sunday, when they blew two saves in a Game 2 loss, were back at their old ways in a 2-0 shutout of the Tigers in Game 3 of the American League Division Series, combining for three scoreless innings following six brilliant frames from lefty Brett Anderson in the needed victory.
"That's the way we usually draw it up," the rookie Doolittle said. "We really seem to feed off each other. I was seeing the way Ryan handled his inning, which got me fired up for the eighth. Just an awesome job by everyone tonight."
After fellow rookie Cook pitched a scoreless seventh with ease, never mind a two-out base hit from Jhonny Peralta, Doolittle entered for the eighth and decided three ground-ball outs would get the job done. But he never got them, instead fanning three straight and walking off the mound in a Balfour-like rage, his emotions matching those of a deafening home crowd.
Then came Balfour.
"I just told myself tonight when I got to the mound, I said, 'You have nothing to worry about here. You have nothing to hang your head about. Go out there and have fun, enjoy it. Rear back and let it go,'" Balfour said.
That's easier said than done, particularly against incoming hitters Omar Infante, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. Balfour began by striking out Infante, still having to deal with two hitters who, in mere seconds, could easily provide two runs.
That became even more of a reality when Cabrera knocked a single to right field, paving the way for Fielder, who had already been robbed of a home run and a double in the game, his motivation for getting at least one of them by night's end intensified.
Fittingly, almost, Fielder grounded into a double play to end a game he twice nearly changed.
"I wanted to go out there and challenge them," Balfour said. "Obviously, Cabrera there had a base hit, but I just wanted to challenge him and try to get a ground-ball out, and it finds a hole, that's fine. Then I beared down to make the pitches to Prince Fielder to finish the game there. I'm happy with the way I threw the ball, and for Doolittle to go out and strike out the side was huge, and for Cookie to go out there and get his job done following Brett's performance, you don't want to do anything short of that when he goes out and pitches a game like that."