OAKLAND, Calif. – Ideally, Jim Leyland would have everybody hug it out and play ball.
Just as Detroit’s Justin Verlander and Coco Crisp of Oakland did on the field for Monday’s workout day ahead of their teams’ Game 3 in the AL division series tonight. The Tigers lead 2-0 and are one win from advancing to a second straight AL championship series. Leyland insists reliever Al Alburquerque meant no ill will toward the Athletics when he fielded Yoenis Cespedes’ ninth-inning comebacker and quickly kissed the ball before throwing to first. Yet the manager disagreed with the display.
Everybody always says I’m from the old school, so I’d have probably hugged it first, Leyland joked. I don’t think it was the right thing to do. I will sit here today and I will not try to defend it. I will say that I can assure everybody, including the Oakland A’s, Al Alburquerque did nothing intentionally to offend the Oakland A’s. A lot of emotion is shown in different ways in the game anymore. You see a lot of different variations of personal celebrations as well as team celebrations.
It wasn’t a smart thing to do, but I can honestly tell you that there is no way that Al Alburquerque or any members of the Detroit Tigers would ever do anything intentionally to offend another team. It just would not happen, Leyland said.
As upstart Oakland returned home hoping to pull off another improbable sweep like the one against Texas last week to capture the AL West crown, that smooch was still plenty talked about in both clubhouses.
Alburquerque said he did speak to his teammates, and that they knew his gesture was within the emotion of the game.
I respect Cespedes and I didn’t do it out of disrespect, the pitcher said. I was just excited to get the out.
Cespedes was eager to get to work Monday, saying: That’s his problem. It doesn’t bother me. It was his turn to win. Someday it will be my turn.
Right-hander Anibal Sanchez (4-6), a midseason acquisition from Miami who was steady down the stretch, will try to pitch the Tigers to another postseason sweep of Oakland.
The Tigers swept Oakland out of its last playoff series – in four games of the 2006 AL championship series. None of the current A’s were on the team then, and only two were even in the organization.