Smith's platoon partner the most happy for him
Gomes: Accepting our roles earned the A's the AL West championship
OAKLAND -- Back in the A's clubhouse after a 2-0 victory over the Tigers in Game 3 had extended the American League Division Series and Oakland had life for at least one more night, no one seemed happier to talk about Seth Smith than the man who has sat on the bench in his place.
First, a bit of background: Right-handed-hitting outfielder/designated hitter and locker-room leader Jonny Gomes hasn't had a single postseason at-bat this year because Smith is left-handed and the Detroit Tigers have thrown nothing but right-handed starters at the A's.
But it isn't anything new. The two have been platoon partners. It's part of the reason the A's have succeeded. Which explains why Gomes was more than happy to speak of the importance of Smith's fifth-inning home run off Tigers starter Anibal Sanchez that gave the A's their second run.
"This plan got us an AL West division championship," Gomes said. "It's not like Seth Smith's any slouch or we're doing him a favor by starting him. He's a heck of a hitter. One of the reasons why we both have had success is by accepting our roles.
"If we win this series, then Baltimore and New York has lefties, so I can get back in there."
Smith's homer came with one out in the bottom of the fifth inning. Oakland had taken a 1-0 lead in the first when Coco Crisp led off with a single, Stephen Drew worked a walk and Yoenis Cespedes singled in Crisp. Scoring slowed down after that, however, as Sanchez and A's starter Brett Anderson began a quick and efficient duel.
After fighting Sanchez to a 2-2 count, Smith connected on a deep fly ball that flew far above the wall into the green batter's eye in right-center field. The sellout Oakland Coliseum crowd of 37,090, waving yellow towels, erupted. The A's had some insurance when they needed it the most.
And for Smith, it might have been a simple matter of mathematics coming to fruition. Smith came into the game having tortured Sanchez throughout his career, going 6-for-13 with two home runs, a double and three RBIs. And prior to Tuesday, Smith was hitting .417 (10-for-24) with two homers, six RBIs, three doubles and six walks in seven regular-season games against Detroit.
Smith struggled down the stretch, hitting .150 (9-for-60) with 23 strikeouts in his last 21 games, but Tuesday's well-timed shot -- plus a gritty six innings from starter Brett Anderson and three shutout innings from the A's bullpen -- might have been what he was looking for. Without question, it was what his team has been looking for.
"This is how you win postseason baseball games -- with pitching and defense," Smith said. That's really how you win all games. And timely hitting. And we had that. We got two runs, and that's all we needed."
As for the platoon, well, expect it to continue.
"I think Jonny has faith in Seth, I think Seth has faith in Jonny, and I think that's what makes it work," A's reliever Ryan Cook said. "We all have faith in both of them, and that's what we've been doing all year. We're not going to change now."