We really didn’t want to see this. It was imperative for the A’s to win game 4 of the ALDS in Detroit this afternoon, so as to avoid having to play yet another decisive game 5. Initially the fear was that Max Scherzer would toe the rubber for the Tigers, but with Scherzer making a relief appearance today that responsibility will fall on the shoulders of one Justin Verlander. Sounds familiar.
For the second straight year the A’s and Tigers will play a decisive game 5 in Oakland, with Justin Verlander on the mound. Last year Verlander carved up the A’s lineup en route to a complete game shutout that ended the magical 2012 season. This time around, the A’s aren’t on a magic carpet ride, and another loss would be a major disappointment. Verlander shut out the A’s in game 2 on Saturday, and wasn’t victorious only because of the heroics of Sonny Gray pitching opposite him. The A’s scratched out a run in the bottom of the ninth, and evened the series at 1-1 as they headed to Detroit. It appears as if the A’s are dealing with the same dominant Verlander as last year, and not the inconsistent one who we saw during the regular season. It’s going to be tough, but the A’s will have to find a way.
What’s most frustrating about the loss today was that the A’s were in the driver’s seat for the first half of the game. They had a 3-0 thanks to Jed Lowrie‘s RBI single, and two-run home run, and Dan Straily was cruising. In fact, Straily didn’t allow a baserunner until the fifth inning, but then the wheels came off. Singles by Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez were followed by a three run home run by Jhonny Peralta and suddenly the game was all square once again. Showing some fight, the A’s took the lead back with a Coco Crisp RBI single, but then it got weird.
If feelings of deja vu are your thing, today is your day. With Sean Doolittle on the mound, Victor Martinez drove a fly ball to right field that appeared to have home run distance, or at least warning track distance. Josh Reddick had a beat on it, took a leap against the wall, and had the ball deflected away by a Tigers fan who reached over the rail. The ball bounced back into the field of play, as Reddick and Coco Crisp pointed at the fan to signal interference. The umpire ruled that it was a home run, and after arguing the call, Bob Melvin got them to review it. Much like that fateful night in Cleveland where Adam Rosales‘ home run was ruled a double, the umpires returned with bad news for the A’s.
The home run call stood, and the Tigers had tied the game once again. Replays seemed to show that Reddick would have caught the ball, but the trajectory of the ball is most important. If he was robbing a home run, then the call stands because he’s reaching into the seats, if it wouldn’t have gone out in its own, then the call would have been reversed. In my opinion the ball would have hit the top of the wall where the yellow line resides, from there it could have bounced back into the field, or into the stands. It was a bad break for the A’s, but it’s hard to definitively say they got robbed.
Either way, the A’s didn’t help matters. Sean Doolittle was left out to continue pitching, despite being hit hard by the Tigers. After a double and a walk, Doolittle surrendered the go ahead run on an Austin Jackson RBI single. Dan Otero was brought in to clean up his mess mercifully. The A’s had a golden opportunity to retake the lead with the bases loaded and nobody out with Max Scherzer on the hill in relief. Josh Reddick came up with nobody out, and swung at ball four, Stephen Vogt also failed to cash in, then pinch hitter Alberto Callaspo made solid contact but it found the glove of Austin Jackson for the final out.
Ryan Cook didn’t fare much better than Doolittle, after retiring the first two batters without incident, Cook allowed a single and a walk and was unable to finish the inning. Brett Anderson was brought in to put out the fire, only to pour gasoline all over it instead. Anderson walked the bases loaded, allowed a run with a wild pitch, then the final blow on an Omar Infante 2-run double. The Tigers had an 8-4 lead as they headed to the ninth.
The A’s showed a little fight against Joaquin Benoit, and a 2-run single by Yoenis Cespedes closed the gap to 8-6. Those two runs would have tied the game had it not been for Anderson giving up the double to Infante. Bottom line, this was a game the A’s should have won, but they gave it away. Now they have to beat Justin Verlander, again, with either Bartolo Colon or Sonny Gray on the mound, otherwise they can start booking tee times for this weekend.