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Anderson pitches A's past Tigers to avoid sweep

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Anderson pitches A's past Tigers to avoid sweep

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) Coco Crisp saved a likely home run, and Oakland's season for at least one more game.

If the center fielder had any lingering frustration about that two-run error that dearly cost Oakland in Game 2, this might have erased it.

Crisp made a spectacular leaping catch at the top of the center-field wall to rob Prince Fielder, and that was just one in a handful of defensive gems by the Athletics to back Brett Anderson in a 2-0 victory over the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday night.

The A's cut their deficit in the best-of-five AL division series to 2-1.

Anderson outdueled fellow postseason first-timer Anibal Sanchez and the upstart A's showed off stellar defense all over the diamond to avoid another playoff sweep by Detroit.

``Robbed home runs are good,'' Anderson posted on Twitter late Tuesday.

``You see him hit it and you just kind of put your head down a little bit because you think you just gave up a homer,'' Anderson said. ``Then you see him plow through there and catch the ball and it kind of kick starts you to go out there and make pitches.''

Yoenis Cespedes hit an RBI single in the first inning and Seth Smith homered in the fifth. That was plenty on a night Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera, Fielder and the Tigers' high-priced offense were shut down by the low-budget A's.

Tigers 16-game winner Max Scherzer will try to close out the series in Game 4 Wednesday night against A's rookie A.J. Griffin. Detroit swept the A's in the 2006 AL championship series.

Fielder was the biggest victim of Oakland's spot-on defense, robbed three times. First by Crisp, Oakland's most experienced player whose blunder on Cabrera's fly allowed two runs to score in a 5-4 loss Sunday in Detroit.

``Not to be all over-confident or anything, I think I'm going to catch everything out there,'' Crisp said. ``Obviously it doesn't happen that way - duh Detroit, right?''

Crisp let out a big ``Whoo!'' after raising his arm to signal he'd made the grab.

``I thought I had a hit,'' Fielder offered afterward.

``Coco's catch, the ball was out of the ballpark and it came back,'' Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. ``The key to that play was he was playing deep and that enabled him to get into a spot to get up and make the catch. And it was a great catch, no doubt about it.''

A's shortstop Stephen Drew made a tough play running to his left to stop Fielder's grounder in the fourth and then threw to first while still off balance and in motion.

Then, in the seventh, Cespedes cut over to make a diving catch on Fielder's liner to left field.

That delighted the yellow towel-waving sellout crowd of 37,090 in this blue-collar city.

``It's frustrating. But it's a good team you're playing,'' Fielder said. ``They're going to make those plays, that's why they're here.''

After Cabrera singled with one out in the ninth, Fielder grounded into a game-ending double play. Fielder is now batting .172 (11 for 64) in his postseason career - .083 (1 for 12) this year.

The A's own the lowest payroll in baseball at $59.5 million. Fielder is getting big money in Motown: $214 million over nine years.

Anderson, back on the mound for the first time since straining a muscle in his right side Sept. 19 at Detroit, worked quickly and showed no signs of a layoff or jitters in his first postseason start.

That's just not the way the A's have operated this year.

Last week, Oakland entered its final three-game series of the regular season needing to sweep the two-time reigning AL champion Rangers to capture the AL West - and the A's did it, sending a stunned Texas team to the one-game wild card, which it lost to Baltimore.

A club with a majors-best 14 walkoff wins and countless whipped cream pie celebrations snapped the longest postseason skid in franchise history at six games, all losses to Detroit.

The Tigers are trying to reach a second straight AL championship series after losing last year's ALCS in six games to the Rangers.

Detroit captured the AL Central in Oakland last year and is hoping for another clinching party as soon as possible.

Anderson did his job to delay it.

He insisted he was healthy and ready to go - and manager Bob Melvin took his pitcher at his word and gave him a shot in his biggest start yet. Anderson had shown plenty when he returned in August following a 14-month absence recovering from elbow-ligament replacement surgery and made six impressive starts.

Not feeling quite 100 percent, he allowed two hits, struck out six and walked two in six innings. He was on a pitch count of 80 and was done at exactly that, though was never told about it beforehand.

``I don't know how you could expect more than we got out of him tonight,'' Melvin said.

Next, the reliable bullpen took over.

Ryan Cook pitched the seventh, Sean Doolittle struck out the side in order in the eighth and closer Grant Balfour finished the four-hitter for a save. The A's staff pitched the 11th postseason shutout by the franchise, while the Tigers were blanked for the 13th time in the postseason.

The A's had lost five straight while facing elimination in the postseason, one shy of the longest active streak by the Twins.

But this group has defied expectations ever since the first full workout at spring training back in February when the A's lost third baseman Scott Sizemore to a season-ending knee injury. Opening day starter Brandon McCarthy took a line drive to the head Sept. 5 and needed brain surgery. Starter Bartolo Colon was suspended for 50 games in August for a positive testosterone test.

Oakland became the first team in major league history to win the division or pennant after trailing by five or more games with fewer than 10 to go. The A's were five back of the Rangers with nine left, then won their final six, all at home with sweeps of Seattle and Texas.

Smith hit a towering drive to the deepest part of center field in the fifth for yet another timely home run for the A's, whose 112 homers after the All-Star break led the majors.

``That's how you win postseason baseball games, with pitching and defense and timely hitting,'' Smith said. ``We had that. We got two runs and that's all we needed. Anderson was great and our defense was, too.''

Sanchez gave up five hits and two runs in 6 1-3 innings, struck out three and walked two.

NOTES: Smith hit his first postseason homer and third lifetime against Sanchez in 15 at-bats. ... At 24 years, 251 days, Anderson became the fifth-youngest pitcher in Oakland history to make his first career postseason start. ... Both Bay Area teams avoided elimination after the NL West champion San Francisco Giants won at Cincinnati earlier in the night. ... Oakland sold out for the eighth time this year and second straight - the regular-season finale vs. Texas drew 36,067 - including 1,000 standing-room only tickets and extra suite sales. It was the biggest crowd at the Coliseum since drawing 43,974 against the Yankees on Sept. 4, 2005, before the upper decks were tarped.

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NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs Power Rankings: The West is set while the Caps still have work to do

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USA TODAY Sports

NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs Power Rankings: The West is set while the Caps still have work to do

There are only two series left in the first round that have yet to be decided. The Caps just so happen to be playing in one of those series.

After falling into a 0-2 hole to start, Washington has rattled off three straight wins and now sits just one away from putting away the Columbus Blue Jackets and advancing to the second round.

Should the Capitals advance, they will play the Pittsburgh Penguins for the third consecutive season.

<<NHL POWER RANKINGS: STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS>>

The Penguins ended their series against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday in Game 6. Jake Guentzel scored four goals in the effort proving once and for all that yes, goaltending is important in the playoffs. Head coach Mike Sullivan has still yet to lose a playoff series as the head coach of Pittsburgh as he led the Penguins to a Stanley Cup in each of the past two seasons.

In the Atlantic, the Tampa Bay Lightning await the winner of the Boston Bruins - Toronto Maple Leafs series after dispatching the New Jersey Devils in five games. After a strong regular season, the Maple Leafs looked poised to take the next step, but Auston Matthews has only two points in five games and Toronto faces elimination at the hands of the Bruins Monday in Game 5.

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All four series in the West, meanwhile, have already been decided. Both the Vegas Golden Knights and San Jose Sharks managed four-game sweeps in the first round and will face one another in the second  The miraculous season of the Golden Knights continues and it would be hard to argue at this point that they are not legitimate Stanly Cup contenders considering all they have accomplished in both the regular season and the playoffs.

Wins by the Nashville Predators and Winnipeg Jets now sets up a second-round battle between the top two teams in the league from the regular season.

<<NHL POWER RANKINGS: STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS>>

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The betting houses are bearish on the 2018 Redskins

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Bob Youngentob for NBC Sports Washington

The betting houses are bearish on the 2018 Redskins

With the NFL schedule dropped last week, many fans and media types went through and predicted wins and losses for the teams they follow, just for fun. But others predict the records of teams and it’s not for laughs, it’s for very high stakes.

The betting houses in Las Vegas and offshore have established their lines for over/under in wins. They then take this a step further and go through the playoffs to establish the odds of winning the Super Bowl. 

Over the weekend, BetOnline published one of each and let’s just say that they do not like what the Redskins have done this offseason. Or, more accurately, they think that the public perception is that the Redskins will not be a very good team this year. 

Their over/under for wins is 5.5. They won seven games last year so the under would represent a decline of at least two wins. This line seems to be low. The Redskins won seven games last year with the worst injury situation in the league, per the numbers crunchers at Football Outsiders. They also faced one of the toughest schedules in the league in terms of opponent winning percentages. 

Yes, they did lose Kirk Cousins to free agency but they replaced him with Alex Smith, who, like Cousins, is not elite or even in the top 10 but in the category of solid, reliable quarterbacks. The QB exchange was close to a wash. But despite the fact that the chances are they will suffer fewer injuries and face a schedule that isn’t as much of a meat grinder, this over/under has the Redskins producing double-digit losses. They have managed to stay out of 10-plus loss territory for three straight years. 

There are more reasons to think that they will win at least as many games as they did last year than there are to think that they will win fewer. If I’m betting, which I’m not, I’d be tempted to hit the over on that pretty hard. 

I would keep my money in my pocket when it comes to betting on the Redskins’ chances of winning the Super Bowl. I don’t think they’re close, but I think they’re much closer than the Browns but BetOnline has Cleveland and Washington with the same odds of hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. The Redskins, Browns, and Bucs are at +6600 to win it all. The Redskins odds are worse than all but six other teams. 

Again, I don’t think that the Redskins are going to win the Super Bowl. Winning a playoff game would be quite an accomplishment for them. But same could be said of the Colts, Giants, Chargers, and 49ers, but they all have considerably better odds than the Redskins. 

In fact, there may be some irrational exuberance with the 49ers and Jimmy Garoppolo. They have the seventh-best odds at +1600. Sure, Jimmy G was very good in five meaningless games at the end of last season. Let’s see how he does with some pressure on and after defensive coaches have had a chance to study how to take away his strengths. It just goes to show you how little real analysis goes into this. 

I get a little annoyed when teams play the disrespect card, especially when they have to look too hard to find it. But if the Redskins look at this, they certainly can embrace the underdog role if they want to. What they do with it, we will find out starting September 9. 

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Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.