During the bottom of the 9th inning Ken Korach remarked that he could feel the O.co Coliseum shaking. That was after Josh Donaldson’s double put runners at 2nd and 3rd with no outs after Josh Reddick led off the bottom of the 9th with a single. Ken had no idea then what he was in for. Seth Smith jumped on a 1-1 fastball from Tigers closer Jose Valverde and drove it into the gap in right center field to tie the game, Smith hustled his way to 2nd, setting up the ultimate drama. After George Kottaras pinch hit for Derek Norris and popped out, and Cliff Pennington struck out looking, Coco Crisp wasted no time in slapping Valverde’s first pitch into right field to score Smith and send the O.co Coliseum into a delirious frenzy as the A’s once again shocked the world and survived to see another day.
It was a tense game from the beginning, and A.J. Griffin and Max Scherzer were putting together a pretty solid pitcher’s duel. The Tigers drew first blood with an Austin Jackson RBI single in the 3rd, and added another on a Prince Fielder home run in the 4th. Griffin didn’t seem to have his best stuff tonight, but he managed to battle through it and survive 5 solid innings and held the Tigers to just those two runs. He did allow 7 hits, but he didn’t walk anyone, and struck out just 1.
Through the first 4 innings Max Scherzer was on his game, after allowing a 2 out single in the 1st to Yoenis Cespedes he retired 12 straight before walking Seth Smith in the 5th. He had kept his pitch count way down to that point, but threw 29 pitches in that inning even though the A’s failed to score. By the time he had 1 out in the 6th inning he was out of the game. That one out could have been a crucial, and incredibly costly one. Stephen Drew came to bat after Coco Crisp reached on Prince Fielder’s error, and he lined a ball into the right center field gap to score Crisp. Defying all logic though Drew tried to stretch his double into a triple and was easily thrown out at 3rd. That snuffed out the budding rally for the A’s in that inning.
Meanwhile Jerry Blevins had entered the game after 1 batter in the 6th and induced a double play from Prince Fielder and retired Delmon Young to end the inning. He also added a clean 7th inning, retiring the side in order. The Tigers got to Sean Doolittle though, scoring a run on Avisail Garcia’s RBI single, but Doolittle was able to keep the damage minimized to that 1 run.
The A’s had a small uprising in the bottom of the 8th with 2 outs as Stephen Drew singled and Yoenis Cespedes walked, but Brandon Moss struck out against Joaquin Benoit. At that point many A’s fans probably saw the writing on the wall, and were preparing to see the Detroit Tigers celebrate on their home turf. Nothing would’ve been worse than seeing Papa Grande do his little dance on the mound as the Tigers rushed the field after advancing to the ALCS.
It was not to be, at least not for now. This walk off win will go down in history as one of the most improbable and incredible comebacks anyone has ever seen. The work is not anywhere near done though, and it doesn’t get easier.
As we move forward to tomorrow’s winner take all Game 5, we’ll see a rematch of the first game of the series as Jarrod Parker takes on Justin Verlander. Verlander didn’t appear to be at his best in Detroit, and the A’s let him off the hook. Tomorrow has to be a different story if the A’s wish to pull of this comeback and advance to face either the Yankees or the Orioles in the ALCS. If nothing else, the A’s need to work the count like they did in the 5th and 6th innings against Scherzer tonight, and get Verlander out of the game. One thing to keep in mind, Verlander’s ERA on the road this season is 3.57 as opposed to an ERA of 1.65 in the comforts of Comerica Park. If you aren’t a believer that the A’s can literally do anything, then you never will be. But tonight’s stunning victory showed what we’ve seen time and time again, this team fights until the bitter end and doesn’t care what the contracts of the opposing players are, or the names on the backs of their jerseys. The Oakland Athletics are on a mission, and Justin Verlander may just be standing in the way of a speeding locomotive.