Athletics 4, Tigers 3: Jose Valverde implodes, A's score 3 in 9th to send ALDS to game 5

Ezra Shaw - Getty Images

The Tigers a mere 3 outs away from advancing, the Athletics score 3 runs in the bottom of the 9th, walk off against closer Jose Valverde and send the ALDS to a win or go home game 5.


Final - 10.10.2012 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Detroit Tigers 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 3 10 1
Oakland Athletics 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 3 4 8 0
WP: Ryan Cook (1 - 0)
LP: Jose Valverde (0 - 1)

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The Detroit Tigers 3 outs away from closing out the series, the Oakland Athletics rallied for 3 9th inning runs, capped by Coco Crisp's walk off single, giving the Oakland Athletics a 4-3 victory. The ALDS is now down to a winner take all game 5.

Ryan Cook pitched the final 1 1/3 innings for the A's, receiving credit for the win. Tigers' closer Jose Valverde blew the save and suffered what was a heart-breaking loss.

The A's Seth Smith had 2 RBI in the 9th inning rally, Stephen Drew added pair of hits and an RBI. Prince Fielder had a solo home run for the Tigers, Andy Dirks chipping in a pair of hits.

The game was fairly undramatic...until the 9th, when drama is the last thing you want to see.

The Tigers went down in order against A.J. Griffin in the top of the 1st. The only semi-bright spot was Quintin Berry's 11 pitch at bat. It ultimately ended in a 6-3 grounder, but he was the first Tiger I've seen since the team arrived in Oakland who worked the damn count.

Max Scherzer got through the 1st inning relatively unscathed, needing just 12 pitches. Coco Crisp hit the ball hard, but right at Prince Fielder. Stephen Drew struck out on a letter high 94 MPH fastball. Yoenis Cespedes singled, the first base runner of the night. But Scherzer cranked up his fastball while facing Brandon Moss, hitting 95 MPH twice while striking him out.

Fielder hit the ball hard...again. Fielder was out...again. Leading off the 2nd, Fielder drove Cespedes to the warning track in left to track down a deep fly. Delmon Young was Delmon Young, a frustrating 2 pitch at bat ending in a pop up to 1st base.

Andy Dirks gave the Tigers their first hit and runner in scoring position, looping an opposite field liner just over 3rd baseman Josh Donaldson, legging out a double. But Jhonny Peralta sent a 3-1 pitch to shallow right for the 3rd out, ending the threat.

Scherzer showing he was fine after his fatigued shoulder issues in the 2nd, sandwiching a come-backer between a pair of strikeouts in a 1-2-3 inning. Even better, his fastball was hitting 96.

Leading off the 3rd, Alex Avila yanked a 2 strike curve ball into the right field corner for a stand up double. Jim Leyland immediately called on Omar Infante to sacrifice bunt, moving Avila to 3rd. As much as I hated the early bunt, it worked. Austin Jackson lined a single to left, Avila walking home with the Tigers' first run since Don Kelly's sac fly on Sunday.

The rally petered out from there, but the Tigers had a 1-0 lead. The scoring drought was over.

Scehrzer continued throwing just as he did in May through September, tossing a 9 pitch 1-2-3 inning, including his 5th strikeout.

Leading off the 4th, Fielder finally found a place where A's outfielders couldn't run down a ball off his bat. The right field seats.

Griffin tried to throw an inside fastball past Fielder. There were 2 mistakes made. One, Griffin got too much of the plate with a low 90's meatball. Two, he threw it to Prince Freaking Fielder. The result was a solo home run deep into the stands in right, and a 2-0 Tigers' lead.

Young and Dirks followed Fielder's big fly with back-to-back singles. The A's got their bullpen working post haste. Peralta put a major crimp on things by grounding into a 4-6-3 double play on would have been ball 4, Young taking 3rd. Avila flew out to end the inning, It wasn't a crooked number, but single runs in back-to-back innings beats being shut out, right?

The A's weren't forcing Scherzer even work up a sweat. Much like the Tigers against Brett Anderson on Tuesday, the A's were first pitch swinging. Scherzer set the A's down in order in the 4th on only 5 pitches. 10 consecutive A's had taken a seat since Cespedes' 1st inning single.

After scoring in the 3rd and 4th, the Tigers went down meekly in the 5th. 6 pitches giving Griffin 2 outs. Infante struck out on 3 pitches, getting the A's fans back in the game, Jackson flew out to left on an 0-2 pitch. Once again, Berry made Griffin work a little, fouling out in a 6 pitch at bat.

Scherzer had wicked stuff from the first pitch. The 5th inning was no different. Josh Reddick struck out on a low fastball, Donaldson was sent packing on a letter high slider. After 12 A's had been set down, Seth Smith worked a walk. Scherzer just missed striking out the side on a pitch that looked better than the called strike 3 on Donaldson. Smith became the first A's base runner since the 1st inning.

On an 0-2 pitch, Derek Norris hit a ball off the end of his bat, traveling about 100 feet. The bloop found green, falling out of the reach of Infante for a single, Smith advancing to 3rd for the first A's threat of the night.

With the A's crowd at a fever pitch, Scherzer worked out of the jam when he struck out Cliff Pennington on a nasty 2-2 breaking ball.

It was deja vu to the start the 6th. Just as he was at Comerica on Sunday, Crisp was stationed at the warning track wit h Miguel Cabrera at the plate.Miguel Cabrera getting under a Griffin pitch, sending a fly to shallow center, Crisp was unable to make the trip from San Francisco to make the catch, the ball falling for a single.

The Tigers couldn't capitalize on the break. Fieldler due up, A's skipper Bob Melvin called on left-hander Jerry Blevins out of the bullpen. The change worked to perfection, Fielder hitting into a tailor made double play. Young followed with his patented 6-3 ground out, and the inning was over.

Leading off the bottom of the 6th, Crsip made Scherzer work hard in a long at bat. The count at 2-2, Crisp hit a low line drive to Fielder, but he couldn't get his glove down quick enough, the ball glancing off it and into short right for a 2 base error. You know the story. What Fielder giveth with the bat, he taketh with the glove.

At this point the bullpen was in overdrive, Octavio Dotel and Phil Coke quickly warming up.

Drew at the plate, Scherzer uncorked a wild pitch, Crisp taking 3rd. The runner just 90 feet away and no one out, Drew drilled an RBI double in the right center gap. For whatever reason, Drew decided to stretch the double into a triple, but the Tigers handled the relay perfectly. Jackson hit the cutoff man. Infante, who threw out Drew by a good 5 feet as Cabrera snatched the 1 hop throw, slapping on the tag while blocking the bag.

Drew never had a chance.

Given a huge break, Jim Leyland got his starter out out of game. In came the old man, Dotel. He struck out Cespedes on a head-high inside fastball for out number 2. After walking Moss, Leyland called on Coke to face the lefty, Reddick. The move paid off. We got to see the "Phil Coke Finger Point" when Reddick flew out to deep right center for a 380 foot 3rd out, ending a hairy 6th inning.

The Tigers went down in order in the top of the 7th on 3 ground balls. Driks bounced out 4-3, Donaldson took away an extra base hit from Peralta with a sprawling grab for the 2nd out and Avila dribbled a grounder to Moss to end a far too quick inning.

With Dotel and Coke needed to finish off the 6th, Al Alburquerque answered the bullpen phone for the 7th inning. He entered the game to a loud chorus of boos, as you would expect due to his mortally offensive kissing of a baseball. Alburquerque fell behind Donaldson 3-0, but he would line out to Infante on a 3-2 pitch. Smith was caught looking at an unhittable high slider for the 2nd out. Alburquerque finished off a very nice 1-2-3 inning when Norris bounced out 5-3, quieting the raucous A;s crowd considerably.

Facing reliever Sean Doolittle, Infante led off the 8th with a single just past a diving Drew. Jackson was called on to lay down a sacrifice bunt. It was executed perfectly, Infante moving to 2nd.

With a lefty on the mound, the big rookie, Avisail Garcia, pinch hit for Berry. Leyland's strategy paid off in spades, Garcia lacing a fastball the opposite way, lining a single to right. Infante scored easily from 2nd for a huge insurance run.

You could hear a pin drop at the O.co.

Cabrera popped out to 3rd for the 2nd out. Keeping the inning alive, Fielder beat the A's shift, pulling a ground ball through a small gap between Moss and Pennington. Showing off 1 of his 5 tools, Garcia beat Reddick''s throw to 3rd. When the dust settled, the Tigers had runners on the corners, Doolittle was on the bench, Ryan Cook on the mound and Young at the plate with 2 outs. Young couldn't get the 2nd insurance run home, grounding out 4-3.

Entering the bottom of the 8th, the Tigers were up 3-1, needing only 6 more outs to move on the ALCS. The game would be placed in the hands of Joaquin Benoit and Valverde.

Benoit set the first 2 A's down easily. Pennington grounded out to 1st, Crisp hit a can of corn to Jackson.

Drew kept the Tigers fan base on edge, dropping a line single in front of Jackson, bringing Cespedes to the plate as the tying run. He would walk on 5 pitches. Valverde was warmed up and likely ready to go as Moss came to the plate.

Benoit quickly got ahead in the count 0-2. Moss fouled off the first 0-2 pitch, but went fishing on a change up in the dirt for a big, big , big strike 3.

You could hear the massive "OH MY GOD OH MY GOD WHEW" all over Tigers Nation.

Cook remained on the mound for the top of thew 9th, the Tigers quickly going down in order.

Which meant it was Big Potato time.

Papa Grande entered the game needing 3 outs to send the Tigers to the ALCS. He immediately allowed an obligatory base runner, Reddick singling just under the glove of a diving Infante.

The inning then badly unraveled in what felt like the blink of an eye. By "badly unraveled," I mean DEFCON 1 level disaster.

Donaldson swung at Valverde's first pitch, lining a double off the left field wall, putting runners on 2nd and 3rd with no one out.

Smith drilled a 92 MPH fastball to right center, legging out a double as 2 runs scored to tie the game at 3-3.

Norris popped out for the first out. Pennington struck out looking for out number 2.

Just as it seemed Valverde would do us all a very small favor and send the game into extras, Crisp singled to right. Garcia charged the ball, but failed to pick it cleanly, Smith scoring the winning run without a throw. What's worse, it appeared Garcia could have had a play at the plate if he doesn't overrun the ball. Rookie mistake.

The Tigers were 3 outs away from clinching the ALDS. Jose Valverde allowed 4 hits and 3 runs, sending the series to a winner take all game 5.

God dammit.

Damn. Damn. Damn.

Instead of having a rested and ready Justin Verlander ready for game 1 of the ALCS, thanks to Valverde's throwing what the A's treated as soft toss, the Tigers now hope their ace will go DEEP into game 5 Thursday night.

Anyone expecting fire and brimstone and wanting big changes in game 5? Not happening. Leyland is going with who brought him to the verge of the ALCS, no matter what. We saw that with Benoit pitching the 8th inning. Regardless, what would you have done differently? Nothing. The Tigers had their closer on the mound, 3 lousy outs away from advancing to the next round. Valverde just picked the worst possible time to throw batting practice. The blame for this loss goes on a normally decent closer who was awful, not on Leyland for he did or didn't do.

What could have been done differently? The only complaint I have with his game strategy was all the small ball, playing for 1 run at every opportunity. But it worked to the point where the Tigers had a 2 run lead in the 9th inning, so my complaints are moot. But an inning or 3 with a crooked number would go a long way toward a game 5 win happening.

Even though it may feel like the series is over, all is lost, there is still a game 5 to be played. Keep in mind the Tigers have the 3 best (and highest paid) players in the series.

No question about it. Verlander, Cabrera and Fielder need to come up big in game 5.

Personally, I'm betting big on Verlander.

BULLETS:

Bullets are brought to you by the weirdest thing I've seen any fan base rally around, the "Bernie Dance."

Bernie_dance_medium

  • Oct. 10th is the anniversary of the Tigers' World Series victories in1945 and 1968. Would it bode well for the Tigers' chances tonight? Nope.
  • Buck Martinez on A's fans: "They really support their players." No, they don't. The A"s were 30th in attendance in 2011. They weren't much better in 2012, finishing 26th out of 30 teams.
  • Austin Jackson's 3rd inning RBI single was only the second Tigers' run produced off a base hit through 29 innings to that point of the series.
  • Thanks to his 6th inning single, Miguel Cabrera has reached base safely in all 15 post-season games of his Tigers career.
  • Replays showed the A's 3rd base coach Mike Gallego waving Stephen Drew to 3rd base in the 6th inning. A huge blunder on both their parts.
  • As well as Max Scherzer pitched, and he was damn good, his velocity had dropped into the low 90's in the 6th inning. He was done, pulling him was the right move.
  • In his career, Josh Reddick was 2-for-4 with a double and strikeout against Phil Coke. Even the numbers said the move was a coin flip...unless Jim Leyland had a 2-headed coin.
  • After showing a modicum of patience early in the game, the Tigers went down on 12 pitches total in the 6th and 7th innings. Frustrating, to say the very least.
  • Joaquin Benoit was excited after getting out of the 8th, but not so much to kiss anything. Benoit did get a slap on the rear from Jim Leyland.
  • So much for the A's claims the odd 2-3 series format was unfair. They got what they wanted, a game 5 at home. Being it's against Justin Verlander is the one thing in the Tiger's favor.
  • Tigers radio color man Jim Prince's reaction to the walk off loss was POed fan-like,"YOU GOTTA BE KIDDING ME!!!"
  • Jim Leyland shook off tonight's events as he has after any tough loss this season: "That's baseball." "We just didn't close it out."
  • Leyland on Valverde: "They just hit him." You tip your hat to them." "He's our guy." "He didn't get the job done, that's part of the game."
  • Well, now we know what the Orioles fan base must feel like, huh?

SCREEN CAPS:

Alex Avila celebrates after his 3rd inning double.

Happy_alex_medium

To steal a line from good friend of BYB @PhilCokesBrain, "IT'S A TARP!"

Tarp_medium

A puny shortstop was not going to get past Miguel Cabrera blocking 3rd base.

Out_medium

Joaquin Benoit is damn near as relieved as the fan base after striking out Josh Reddick.

Benoit_medium

3 ROARS:

Max Scherzer: Made the most of match up against the A's, striking out 8 in 5 1/3 innings.

Al Alburquerque: Tossed a 1-2-3 7th. Al-Al is one of the few relievers I have any sort of confidence in at the moment.

Prince Fielder: 2 hits, including a home run.

1 HISS:

Jose Valverde: The A's had 4 hits in 8 innings. They added 4 more in the 9th off Valverde. Talk about an ugly, ugly 9th inning. One that may have cost the Tigers a chance at advancing in the playoffs.

ALDS GAME 3 PLAYER OF THE GAME:

The offense having gone AWOL, there was no question BYB's PotG would be starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez. The Tigers' hard luck pitcher out-polled the collective "Bullpen" with 85% of the vote.

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