The A’s didn’t beat Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer Tuesday night.
They didn’t beat anybody.
What they may have done, however, is put together a blueprint for how to beat Scherzer in a big game should one appear down the line.
And since the Tigers and the A’s have met in the post-season the last two years, what are the odds?
The A’s fouled off pitch after pitch, and took pitches that weren’t in the strike zone. Catcher John Jaso looked at 20 pitches all by himself in just his first two at-bats.
In all, the A’s fouled off 23 pitches that Scherzer threw, 20 of those in the first four innings alone. In the third inning, both Jaso and left fielder Yoenis Cespedes fouled off four consecutive pitches as part of extended at-bats.
That put the Tigers’ go-to guy off his game. And that’s why leads of 2-0 and 4-2, leads that would normally be safe with Scherzer on the mound, weren’t safe.
The A’s were able to come back twice, eventually taking the lead on Jaso’s two-out, two-run homer in the fourth.
Oakland probably should have done more damage to Scherzer than it did. In the first, Coco Crisp opened with a double, but was caught stealing third almost immediately. The fifth third, Jaso was hit by a pitch and Josh Donaldson walked, but with the 4-5-6 batters up, Brandon Moss and Cespedes both struck out and Jed Lowrie grounded out.
And after Scherzer was out of the game, the A’s got a leadoff walk in the seventh, but couldn’t muster anything after that against a bullpen that came into the game with a 4.43 cumulative ERA.
Still, the reason the A’s lost this one had to do with the pitching not holding up and with the defense being caught unaware when former A’s outfielder Rajai Davis stole third, setting up the winning run.
Being able to put Scherzer on the hot seat, the problem that seemed before the game to be the most problematic, was solved by the A’s continued ability to work counts and force the right-hander into high numbers of pitches. He threw 38 pitches in the first two innings and cracked the 50-pitch mark with no one out in the third. He finished with 107 pitches and left with the Tigers trailing.
That should have been the recipe for an Oakland win, but baseball is funny that way.