OAKLAND Coco Crisp lifted off and seemed to glide laterally toward the wall in center, his glove extending just over the top, Prince Fielder's drive smacking into its webbing. Crisp, landing, pumped his fist. Fielder, rounding first, grinned wryly and made an about-face to the visiting dugout.
The Detroit Tigers came into Oakland needing just one win to take this American League Division Series, and in their first attempt Tuesday night, the A's turned them away.
With their 2-0 win, the A's prolonged their own unlikely season for at least one more day behind Crisp's defensive gem and a dramatic performance by left-handed starter Brett Anderson in his return from a three-week absence.
They still must win twice to do something no team in franchise history has ever done come back from a 2-0 deficit to win a postseason series and will attempt to even the series tonight behind rookie right-hander A.J. Griffin.
"It gets us to tomorrow," manager Bob Melvin said. "It gets us to tomorrow, and then we'll go at it in the same fashion we did tonight."
Anderson, who missed most of the season recovering from Tommy John surgery and then strained his right abdominal muscle in his sixth start back, handcuffed the Tigers for six shutout innings before turning things over to the back end of Oakland's bullpen.
And two days after blowing two separate leads in Game 2, the progression of Ryan Cook, Sean Doolittle and Grant Balfour slammed the door Doolittle striking out the side in the eighth on a series of mid-90s fastballs to secure for the A's their first postseason victory since the division series in 2006.
It continued a redemptive theme that began when Fielder sent an Anderson offering deep to center in the second. Crisp broke for it immediately, and though he said the ball faded from him at the last minute, he felt the warning track and was able to time his jump to rob Fielder of a home run.
"My first thought was just, no way," said catcher Derek Norris. "Just an incredible play."
For Crisp, whose dropped basket catch in center loomed large in Oakland's Game 2 loss and weighed heavily on him, it was the kind of play "that definitely resets you mentally."
"I just wanted to come out and play flawless out there," Crisp said, "no matter where the ball was hit. I was fortunate to make a really nice play."
For Anderson, it erased the ramifications of what he called a "bad pitch," though Norris credited Fielder with barreling up an outside slider.
"You kind of put your head down a little bit because you think you gave up a homer," Anderson said. "And then you see him fly through the air and catch the ball it kind of kick-starts you to go out there and make your pitches."
Anderson had not pitched since Sept. 19, and acknowledged this week he didn't know what to expect when he climbed the mound Tuesday.
The answer came quickly. Anderson breezed through the first inning on eight pitches, striking out the first two batters and coaxing a ground-out out of triple crown winner Miguel Cabrera.
Fielder's was the only fly ball Anderson allowed. Eleven of his outs came on ground balls, including some nifty glovework by his middle infielders, and he struck out six, finishing most off with a biting curveball.
His last victim was Cabrera, who swung over a 2-2 pitch to end the sixth. Anderson ran to the dugout, Norris bounded out of his crouch, and a crowd of 37,090 made the stands a ring of whirling gold towels.
"I don't know how you could expect more than we got out of him tonight," Melvin said.
Before he dipped into Fielder's pocket, Crisp got the A's on the board in the first when he singled, moved up on a Stephen Drew walk and sped home when Yoenis Cespedes shot a single up the middle.
The early lead, Crisp said, was "big. Obviously with your backs against the wall, it's always nice. It just so happened that it was enough today."
Seth Smith, in the lineup largely because of his career success against Tigers starter Anibal Sanchez (6 for 13 with two homers entering the game), validated Melvin's decision in the fifth by crushing a home run to center.
"Today was a big win for us. We're going to sleep on it," Crisp said. "Come out this next game, and just try to win a ballgame."