Scherzer overpowers A's bats as Tigers take Game 1 of ALDS 

click to enlarge Brandon Moss and the rest of the A’s struggled to make contact Friday in Game 1 of the ALDS, as Tigers pitchers combined to strike out 16 Oakland batters. - EZRA SHAW/GETTY IMAGES
  • Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
  • Brandon Moss and the rest of the A’s struggled to make contact Friday in Game 1 of the ALDS, as Tigers pitchers combined to strike out 16 Oakland batters.

OAKLAND -- Max Scherzer threw out his best Justin Verlander impersonation at the O.co Coliseum on Friday, fanning 11 A's batters in Game 1 of the American League Division Series.

Scherzer received the nod to start Game 1 over Verlander, who struck out 11 batters in Game 5 of last year's ALDS, and he responded, propelling the Detroit Tigers to a 3-2 win and a 1-0 series lead.

"Tip your hat to guys like that," third baseman Josh Donaldson said. "He doesn't win that many games for no reason, up for Cy Young for no reason -- the guy's really good."

The 21-game winner dazzled the A's in the first six innings, allowing only three base-runners before he surrendered a pair of runs in the seventh.

Scherzer struck out at least one batter in every inning, including the fourth when he fanned Donaldson, Brandon Moss and Yoenis Cespedes in order. Through five innings, Scherzer had allowed only two balls to leave the infield.

"He tries to pitch away from everybody's strength," center fielder Coco Crisp said. "I think he did a good job of locating that way."

Donaldson called Scherzer's fastball "electric."

"I don't think he missed too many times up in the zone with it, unless he was trying to," Donaldson said. "His heater was 93 to 98 -- 99 a couple of times. And he was mixing that change-up in there."

The A's finally gave the 48,401 fans in attendance something to cheer about in the seventh when Cespedes crushed his first career postseason home run into the left field stands with Moss aboard, cutting the Tigers' lead to a 3-2 score. Cespedes, who went 2-for-4, also smacked a stand-up triple to left in the first.

Scherzer handed the game over to the bullpen after the seventh, allowing two earned runs on three hits and two walks.

Closer Joaquin Benoit struck out the side in the bottom of the ninth, giving Tigers pitchers, who set a major-league record for team strikeouts this season, 16 K's on the night.

Donaldson said the four-day layoff may have impacted the A's offense, which hit .294 while scoring 202 runs over the last 33 games of the season.

"I felt like we were a little rusty in some areas, especially myself, having a couple of days off," he said.

The Tigers jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first, tagging A's starter Bartolo Colon for two doubles, two singles and a hit by pitch.

"It looked like balls were up," A's manager Bob Melvin said, referring to Colon's first-inning pitches. "Couple of balls not hit hard, a couple balls hit hard."

Reigning AL MVP Miguel Cabrera opened the scoring by driving in Austin Jackson, who doubled, with a single that bounced in between Colon's legs and through the middle for a hit.

Torii Hunter, who reached base on a hit by pitch, scored next on a double-play ball off the bat of Prince Fielder. The Tigers added another run after Victor Martinez roped a double to left and Alex Avila squeaked a single under the glove of typically sure-handed first baseman Daric Barton.

"He does usually get to balls," Melvin said. "He doesn't do that too often. He's a good defender."

Colon settled down after the first, pitching another five innings without surrendering a run.

"It took him an inning to get back in his rhythm," Melvin said.

The crowd, which was the largest at O.co Coliseum since June 27, 2004, cheered the A's on throughout the night, often screaming: "Let's Go Oakland" at full volume.

"They did a good job of not letting those early runs take them out," said Crisp, who drew three walks. "They were behind us all the way and that's always a good feeling."

pgackle@sfexaminer.com

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Paul Gackle

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