DETROIT As Brandon Moss' fifth-inning home run shot toward the right-field seats at Comerica Park, Tigers right-hander Anibal Sanchez spun off the mound angrily, snapping his head away in disgust. Two batters later, after Seth Smith's arcing fly ball carried just over the short wall in left-center into the A's bullpen, Sanchez simply stood and stared.
The first home run broke a 3-3 tie in Monday's Game 3 of the American League Division Series, after the Tigers had scored three times in the fourth. The latter ended the day for Sanchez, the league's ERA leader during the regular season who allowed three homers to the A's, whose offense had been mostly dormant in the first two games of the series.
Smith's two-run shot gave the A's a 6-3 lead that held up for a 2-1 series lead that moved them within one win of advancing to the A.L. Championship Series.
After scoring three runs and striking out 29 times in the first two games, the A's broke out against Sanchez, who had allowed just nine homers in the regular season and four in 14 starts at home.
"We're going to strike out, and we're going to hit the long ball, so once we get those going, it's going to be a good day," right fielder Josh Reddick said. "To do it against a guy like Sanchez, who's been great for them all year it does a lot for your confidence going into (Game 4 today)."
Reddick led off the fourth by driving Sanchez's 2-2 pitch over the wall in right field, and Stephen Vogt tripled and scored on Coco Crisp's sacrifice fly to give the A's a 3-0 lead.
After Detroit scored three times in the bottom of the inning off A's right-hander Jarrod Parker, snapping the Tigers' streak of 20 consecutive scoreless innings, Moss who entered the at-bat 1 for 8 in the series with seven strikeouts wrested the lead back with his solo home run.
"That's a huge swing in momentum for us," manager Bob Melvin said. "At the time, it felt like it was more than just a solo home run, so big of a swing for us, and we continued to swing the bat well after that."
Smith was the forgotten man in the A's outfield in the final month of the season, starting just seven games, though he did go 11 for 28 in September.
After Smith had two hits in Game 2, Melvin put him into the lineup again Monday to face Sanchez, against whom Smith entered the game 7 for 19 lifetime.
Smith responded with two hits off Sanchez, including the two-run homer, a high fly ball that carried out on a breezy day in Detroit.
"In my career, I've got practice at not playing for a while and then playing," Smith said, referring to his time as a part-time player in Colorado. "It's the big leagues, especially now it's the postseason, and you're expected to get the job done regardless of what you're asked to do."
The A's scored their first run on Miguel Cabrera's fielding error with two on and two outs in the third before Vogt's triple and Crisp's sacrifice fly in the fourth. Vogt tagged up on a medium-deep fly ball to left, where the Tigers were playing Jhonny Peralta, a natural shortstop, in a move designed to add offense.
That move paid off as Peralta singled in two runs in the fourth to key the Tigers' three-run inning against Parker. The Tigers put a runner on in each of the next five innings, but they were unable to advance anyone past first base against Parker and three relievers from an A's staff that has held the Tigers scoreless in 25 of 27 innings.
Parker said the A's 2-1 series lead is "good. But I think we've got to play it like we're down 2-1. To get overconfident or any of that kind of stuff, it's not who we are."
The difference, of course, is the A's still will have a chance to win the series at home Thursday if they lose Game 4 today. They have, however, looked very comfortable this season at Comerica Park. In five games in Detroit, the A's have scored 40 runs and hit 10 homers.
"I know that you see the ball better here," Moss said. "The backdrop is good. It's a very good place to see the baseball, which matters a lot when you're facing guys like them."