Thomas' frustrations mirror those of A's
Slugger 0-for-10 as Tigers build commanding ALCS lead
DETROIT -- For the A's, it is bad news when the only Big Hurt that applies to Frank Thomas is when the DH gets hit on the left thigh by a Kenny Rogers fastball in the first inning and numbly walks to first base.
In this American League Championship Series, with his A's now down 0-3 to the Tigers and on the brink of elimination, Thomas is 0-for-10.
And he's not alone. Nick Swisher, Oakland's second most productive slugger this season, is 0-for-7. No wonder the A's were stifled again -- this time, 3-0 -- by the Tigers.
"I'm very disappointed," said Thomas. "Those guys had a very good plan. Each hitter was off-balanced and had bad swings, a lot of ground balls and popups. But that's Kenny. Kenny's a great pitcher, he's a veteran. He brought his 'A' game once again tonight."
Yes, the pitching-rich Tigers have shut down Oakland's big guys, little guys and all the guys in between. The A's are in a bad way right now, particularly on offense, where they mustered a mere two hits -- both singles -- against Rogers and the Detroit bullpen.
Was it really just a week ago that Thomas belted two homers to pace Oakland's three-game Division Series sweep over the Twins? In that series, Thomas went 5-for-10 and swung the bat like the future Hall of Famer he is.
In this round, he looks as helpless as any Oakland hitter. Thomas had just two true cracks at the dish in this one. Rogers hit him on that 0-2 pitch in the first; Thomas struck out in the fourth; and, much to his shock, what he thought was a foul pop into the right-field stands in the seventh came back into play and landed in the glove of right fielder Magglio Ordonez.
"[Rogers] drilled me the first inning; I know it was on purpose," Thomas said.
How does Thomas know that?
"Kenny's got pinpoint control," Thomas said. "I saw him hit [Alex Rodriguez] last week in the same situation, [with an 0-2 count]. It's one of those things, we play little games in the game. The reason I walked to first base there is because my whole leg went numb. I thought it was pretty funny."
Thomas couldn't find much humor in the rest of his day.
"The second time, he made a [heck] of a strikeout pitch there after throwing a lot of offspeed stuff early in the count," Thomas said. "Got me looking to right field, and got me inside. Third time, I just barely missed the changeup. Ball should have been foul. It came all the way back with the wind. 0-for-2 is 0-for-2."
The Big Hurt has had his share of 0-fers against the Tigers this season. A look at the stats show that Thomas hit .214 against the Tigers in 2006 and produced a mere one RBI, his lowest total against any American League foe.
"They pitched me like this all year long," Thomas said. "I haven't had much success against this club all year long. Like I said, I've got a lot of people over there who know me very well and have seen me do a lot of damage in this league for a long time -- their intent is to stop it."
Not to mention the rest of the Oakland offense, which has an aggregate .216 average for the series while scoring six runs.
"We looked flat," Thomas said. "We just don't look like ourselves after playing so well. They have a lot to do with that. They've shut us down. There's no excuses about it. They've shut us down. That's exactly what they've done. Each hitter just looked out of sync. That's what a good pitching staff will do to you."
The best swing taken by the A's all day came off the bat of Eric Chavez in the second inning, but his drive landed in the deep confines of center field, snugly into the glove of Curtis Granderson.
"He hung it; [Rogers] probably wanted it a little more down," Chavez said.
Did Chavez think it was gone off the crack of the bat?
"Yeah, I thought so," he said.
But the A's have just managed to run into a buzzsaw in Detroit's red-hot arms.
"We put ourselves in a hole," said A's center fielder Mark Kotsay, "and we have to try to dig ourselves out."
In actuality, hitting themselves out of that hole might be the only way.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.