After coming out with just the type of energy they needed in the early innings, the A's -- as much as Milton Bradley tried -- couldn't contain the counterpunch by the surging Tigers in what wound up an 8-5 loss in Game 2 that pinned them in a 2-0 hole in this best-of-seven series.
Bradley was heroic in defeat, going 4-for-5 with two homers and four RBIs, but it wasn't enough.
"They've got momentum right now, but it's way too early," said A's designated hitter Frank Thomas. "We've got to win Game 3. That's important to us right now, just winning Game 3."
The A's did make it dramatic until the finish. They loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom of the ninth and had Thomas at the plate, one swing away from a walk-off grand slam which could have been an October hit for the ages.
But the Big Hurt got under the 1-1 pitch from Todd Jones and lofted it to center field for the final out.
"I just missed," said Thomas. "He elevated a little bit. I chased up a little bit. In that situation, you want one up there. He had a little cut on it late, and I just missed. I love being in that situation. You've got to want to be in that situation."
But the finality of Thomas' near-miss left the A's in a situation that teams don't crave at this time of year.
As they packed their bags following the defeat, the A's knew full well that their season has come down to this: They must take a minimum of two out of three in Detroit to bring the ALCS back to Oakland, where it started with such hope.
Since 1985 -- when the LCS switched to a best-of-seven format -- 16 teams have taken a 2-0 lead. Thirteen of those teams have gone to the World Series. The A's hope to be an exception, just as the Cardinals and Royals were in 1985 and the Red Sox were in 2004.
"Numbers and percentages, you can't look at that," said A's third baseman Eric Chavez of being down 0-2. "It can be done. Until you're eliminated, anything can be done."
|"You've got to win four games before you lose four. We haven't lost four yet, so we still have a chance."|
|-- Jay Payton|
It just didn't seem the A's could do anything to dampen the Tigers, however, as the visitors came storming back in the fourth. Placido Polanco and Magglio Ordonez led off with singles, and Rodriguez walked to load the bases with one out. Monroe then ripped an RBI single up the middle to slice Detroit's deficit to a run.
Alexis Gomez, making his first start of the postseason, slapped a two-run single off the glove of third baseman Eric Chavez into left field to put Detroit back on top.
"I feel like I can get every ball that I go try and get," said Chavez. "I knew the only chance to do anything was for me to cut it off. I'm not sure what could have been done, other than trying to keep the ball in the infield. You don't get to be the type of third baseman I am without being aggressive and trying to make all the plays."
What the A's need is to get some better pitching.
For the second night in a row, the A's got a subpar pitching performance from their starter, as Esteban Loaiza could not pick his team up after Barry Zito's loss in the opener. The right-hander was pounded for nine hits and seven runs over six innings.
"I tried and tried," said Loaiza. "I wish I could take it back."
Homers from both sides of plate in postseason
|A's right fielder Milton Bradley became the third player in Major League history to homer from both sides of the plate in a postseason game and first in League Championship history when he accomplished the feat on Wednesday.|
|Bernie Williams||NYY||10/6/1995||ALDS G3|
|Bernie Williams||NYY||10/5/1996||ALDS G4|
|Chipper Jones||ATL||10/4/2003||NLDS G4|
|Milton Bradley||OAK||10/11/2006||ALCS G2|
|Courtesy of Elias Sports Bureau|
Bradley had broken a tie with one big swing, smashing a towering two-run homer to right with two outs in the third against winning pitcher Justin Verlander to give Oakland a 3-1 lead.
"I'm good," said Bradley. "That's what I do."
The Tigers then did what they've been doing during their five-game, postseason winning streak.
With a two-run homer in the third and a solo shot in the seventh, Bradley became the first player in A's history to hit a homer from both sides of the plate in a postseason game, and the third player in playoff history, joining Bernie Williams and Chipper Jones.
"That's a dream game for a guy in the playoffs, to hit a home run from both sides of the plate," said A's left fielder Jay Payton. "He had a phenomenal game. He did everything possible to give us a chance to win this game."
Brandon Inge stretched the lead to 5-3 with a sacrifice fly to center.
Meanwhile, the unheralded Gomez, who spent much of the season at Triple-A Toledo, continued his coming-out party by roping a two-run homer to right field in the sixth, putting the A's in a 7-3 hole. Gomez now has as many postseason homers (one) in his career as regular-season homers.
Curtis Granderson tacked on an insurance run with a solo homer off Huston Street in the ninth inning.
"You've got to win four games before you lose four," said Payton. "We haven't lost four yet, so we still have a chance. They're playing better baseball. They're hitting a little better, they're pitching a little better."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.