Until Thursday evening, every game in this best-of-five American League Division Series between the Detroit Tigers and Oakland Athletics came down to the wire with two of the five resulting in game winners in the home half of the ninth.
Tigers ace Justin Verlander pitched a beautiful seven innings of three-hit ball in the series opener. The A’s only run was a Coco Crisp’s leadoff home run in the first inning. From then on, Verlander and the Tigers’ bullpen blanked Oakland for a 3-1 win and early 1-0 lead in the series.
Game 2 was a little more competitive as the game was in deadlock 4-4 tie heading into the ninth. The A’s failed to score, which would’ve put the pressure on Detroit to respond and avoid heading to Oakland with the series tied a game apiece.
The Tigers, though, had no intention of playing more baseball as Omar Infante and Miguel Cabrera had back-to-back singles as Prince Fielder was intentionally walked to load the bases with one out for Don Kelly.
Kelly did exactly what any batter is supposed to in the situation he was in; hit the ball hard and far to the outfield. His sacrifice fly was deep enough for Infante to tag from third for the winning run, as Detroit would head to the Coliseum up 2-0 in the series.
Oakland’s appearance in the postseason wasn’t a fluke by any means. They won their final six, including a sweep in the final series of the regular season against the Texas Rangers to grab the AL West on game number 162.
While Oakland might not have a Verlander at their disposal, the arms they do have in the rotation and bullpen can take on any power lineup. Detroit was blanked as Athletics pitchers limited the Tigers to four hits and struck out 11 to keep their season alive. Cabrera and Fielder went a combined 1-for-8 in the 2-0 loss.
If the A’s were to go on and win game five and possibly a championship, game four would be the storyline of how they got there.
The Tigers got what seemed at the time an insurance run in the eighth to grab a 3-1 lead and were outs away from reaching the American League Championship Series in back-to-back seasons for the first time in franchise history.
Throughout the entire game, Oakland batters struggled to hit and when they did get hits, they were unable convert into runs.
Oakland’s magical season seemed over with closer Jose Valverde entering for the save, and LCS clincher, up 3-1. But he ran into some command issues as both Josh’s – Reddick and Donaldson – got to Valverde early and were in scoring position with no outs, igniting the home fans.
With one swing the place erupted as Seth Smith laced a line drive double that scored both runs and ensured this game would at least go extras with the game now tied 3-3.
After a foul-out and strikeout it was up to Crisp to continue his heroism for the A’s—he had already robbed Fielder of a home run in the series.
Crisp wasted no time swinging at the first pitch Valverde gave him by sending the it straight into right field as Smith came charging home for the winning run. A play at the plate might have occurred, but Avisail Garcia couldn’t come up with the ball and Smith scored standing up as the rest of the players mobbed Crisp on the infield. Oakland and Detroit’s seasons would come down to a winner-take-all.
Both clubs would throw out their starters from Game 1 with the same result taking place. Verlander proved once again why he is a candidate for back-to-back Cy Young awards as he was lights out pitching a complete game with 11 strikeouts and four hits. The Tigers scored six, but all they needed was Austin Jackson’s RBI double in the third to send Detroit back to LCS.
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