8:19 PM ET, October 11, 2006
O.co Coliseum, Oakland, California
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Alexis Gomez impressed his teammates time and again by routinely hitting long home runs. In batting practice, that is.
|Game 2 Breakdown|
Placido Polanco. The Tigers second baseman ignited the offense. Polanco led off the fourth with a single and came around to score the first of four runs that inning. He finished 3-for-4, reached base four times and now is hitting .440 (11-for-25) in the postseason.
Still, Jim Leyland trusted his gut and went with the little-used Gomez as Detroit's designated hitter for Game 2 of the American League Championship Series -- yet another spot-on call by the Tigers manager this postseason.
The result: a 2-0 advantage heading home to Motown.
Gomez hit a go-ahead, two-run single and later added a two-run homer to lead the Tigers to an 8-5 victory over the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday, a somber night following the death of former A's pitcher Cory Lidle in a plane crash earlier in the day.
A career minor leaguer, Gomez had just one home run in the majors and contributed only six RBI in 103 at-bats this season.
"He does have big-time power," Leyland said. "Unfortunately, he showed most of it in batting practice."
Milton Bradley homered twice for the A's, and beat out an infield hit with two outs in the ninth inning that loaded the bases. But closer Todd Jones retired Frank Thomas on a harmless fly for his second save in these playoffs.
"What a challenge," Jones said. "It was a lot of fun. We're up 2-0 and we're going back to Detroit."
Harden, who returned to make three late-season starts after missing more than three months with an elbow injury, did not pitch during the division series sweep of the Minnesota Twins. Rogers pitched shutout ball against the New York Yankees in Game 3.
Alan Schwarz and Steve Phillips break down Game 2 of the ALCS and look ahead to Game 1 of the NLCS. They also take a moment to remember Cory Lidle.
Leyland, who turned around the Tigers in his first season as their manager, benched righty Marcus Thames and his 26 regular-season home runs in favor of Gomez, who hadn't been on the field in nearly two weeks and spent much of the year at Triple-A Toledo.
"We just took a shot that maybe, by chance, a lefty may have a shot," Leyland said beforehand.
Leyland already had to reshuffle his lineup to replace Sean Casey after the first baseman injured his calf in Tuesday's opener. The moves paid off and the Tigers won their fifth straight postseason game.
Leyland gave Detroit general manager Dave Dombrowski a courtesy heads-up about the switch at DH.
"I won't question who he plays," Dombrowski said. "I never have. That's his responsibility. He does it well."
Jones echoed that.
"When Jim puts out the lineup it's the right nine. He's the only one who has to know the decision," the reliever said. "If I walk in there on Friday and see my name as the cleanup hitter, I'd expect to get a hit."
A moment of silence was held before the national anthem for Lidle, who most recently pitched for the Yankees on Saturday in Detroit and spent the 2001 and '02 seasons in Oakland. His picture was shown on the main scoreboard.
Both teams did their best to focus on baseball and put their grief aside for a few hours.
Alexis Gomez had four RBI in his postseason debut after driving in only six runs during the regular season. The only other players to have a four-RBI game in the postseason in a year in which they had fewer than 10 RBI during the regular season are Mike Cuellar (ALCS) and Dave McNally (World Series), both for the 1970 Orioles (and in case you didn't know, both pitchers).• For more Elias Says, click here
The switch-hitting Bradley homered from both sides of the plate, drove in four runs and managed not to spill coffee on starter Esteban Loaiza this time.
Eric Chavez also homered for the A's, who didn't know until arriving at the ballpark that Lidle had been in the small plane. Lidle's old Oakland jersey hung near the dugout.
Hard-throwing Tigers rookie Justin Verlander struck out six. He got plenty of support from the bats, and Jones.
"He made it a little bit exciting, but he got it done," Verlander said.
Perhaps more fun for Verlander was watching Gomez's offensive show. Gomez was designated for assignment by Detroit twice this season.
"There's no surprise in me," said Gomez, who initially thought his name in the lineup was a joke. "I know why I came to the big leagues. When I went to Toledo this year, I didn't put my head down. I worked hard every day."
This was the biggest performance yet for the 28-year-old Dominican, who did hit four home runs on Aug. 7 against the Columbus Clippers to tie an International League record and had a 12-game hitting streak in Triple-A.
"Everyone had seen him in BP hit balls 500 feet," Verlander said. "He can crush the ball. We were sitting there hoping for one of those BP swings, and he got one."
Detroit left the Bay Area with the comfort of knowing that all eight road teams to take a 2-0 lead in LCS history have gone on to reach the World Series.
The A's took an early lead by getting a hit in their first opportunity with a runner in scoring position -- in Game 1, they tied a postseason record by going hitless in 13 at-bats in those situations.
"Yesterday was more frustrating," Chavez said. "They flat out beat us today. They looked like the better team. It's tough. They just keep coming at you."
Both teams brought their infields in with a runner on third and one out in the first two innings, apparently anticipating a low-scoring pitcher's duel.
Instead, the Tigers' bats came up big in the fourth.
Carlos Guillen struck out and Loaiza walked Ivan Rodriguez before Monroe's RBI single brought a mound visit from A's pitching coach Curt Young. Gomez followed with a two-run single off Chavez's glove at third base, and Inge added a sacrifice fly a night after his three-hit, two-RBI performance.
The Tigers quieted the sellout crowd of 36,168 for a second straight night. Detroit has won five straight since dropping Game 1 of the division series to the Yankees -- the club's first time with five straight victories since a seven-game winning streak from June 23-30.
Gomez followed Monroe's two-out single in the sixth with a home run over the right-field wall.
Casey, whose No. 21 jersey hung in the dugout, could be sidelined the entire series with a partially torn muscle in his left calf and underwent an MRI exam earlier Wednesday. Guillen shifted from shortstop to first to fill in, while Neifi Perez got the nod at shortstop despite his .200 batting average in 21 games with Detroit this season.
Verlander, a 17-game winner in his first major league season, reached 100 mph in the first inning but threw a wild pitch on his 10th offering of the game -- which allowed Mark Kotsay to reach third after a one-out double. Bradley followed with a broken-bat single to left for a 1-0 lead.
Verlander allowed seven hits and four runs in 5 1/3 innings and four relievers finished it.
"I think you've got to give our hitters some credit. We wound up putting some runs on the board," A's manager Ken Macha said.
Loaiza, who pitched Game 2 against the Twins in the Metrodome but got a no-decision, looked little like the guy who earned AL pitcher of the month after an unbeaten August. He was tagged for nine hits and seven runs, struck out five and walked one in six innings.
Thomas had five hits in the first round -- including two homers in Game 1 of the ALDS -- but went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts and is hitless so far in the ALCS. ... Guillen had been 12-for-17 lifetime against Loaiza before striking out in the fourth. ... Oakland's Jay Payton singled in the fourth for an 11-game postseason hitting streak. ... The A's set an ALCS record with six straight strikeouts late, topping the five straight Ks by Boston hitters against the Yankees on Oct. 12, 2004. ... A's RHP reliever Justin Duchscherer had a neck spasm and was unavailable.
|Stadium||O.co Coliseum, Oakland, CA|
|Attendance||36,168 (103.1% full) - % is based on regular season capacity|
|Weather||67 degrees, partly cloudy|
|Umpires||Home Plate - Hunter Wendelstedt, First Base - Derryl Cousins, Second Base - Chuck Meriwether, Third Base - Gary Cederstrom|