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Tigers 5, Athletics 4: Don Kelly's walk off sacrifice fly gives Tigers wild come from behind win, 2-0 ALDS lead

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Utility man Don Kelly was designated for assignment in August. Come October, Kelly scores the game-tying run and drives home the winner in game 2 of the ALDS.

Leon Halip - Getty Images

Final - 10.7.2012 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Oakland Athletics 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 2 0 4 9 1
Detroit Tigers 0 0 1 0 0 0 2 1 1 5 11 0
WP: Al Alburquerque (1 - 0)
LP: Grant Balfour (0 - 1)

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Don Kelly's walk off sacrifice fly gave the Detroit Tigers a wild 5-4 victory over the Oakland Athletics. Holed a 2 games to none lead, the Tigers take control of the ALDS as they head to Oakland.

Al Alburquerque, the last of 4 Detroit pitchers, faced just batter in the 9th, but it was enough to give him the victory in relief. A's closer Grant Balfour allowed 2 hits, a walk and the winning run, taking the loss.

Miguel Cabrera led the Tigers' with 3 hits, Omar Infante and Jhonny Peralta chiming in with 2 hits each. Josh Reddick homered for the A's, Yoenis Cespedes adding 2 hits and an RBI.

Doug Fister picked up where he left off in his final regular season start, striking out yesterday's A's hero Coco Crisp on 5 pitches. The next 2 A's, Stephen Drew and Cespedes, went down without incident.

Unlike Justin Verlander in game 1, Fister had excellent command early on, needing only 11 pitches in the 1st inning compared to Verlander's 26.

Miguel Cabrera ripped a 2 out liner to the wall in left center for a stand up double. Tommy Milone got out of trouble when Prince Fielder hit the ball hard, but right at Cespedes.

Despite having wicked stuff, sometimes luck plays a part in the creation of a threat. Josh Donaldson didn't the ball hard, but a bloop off his fists dropped in front of Avisail Garcia for the A's first base hit with 2 out in the 2nd. Seth Smith was nicked by an inside curve ball, moving Donaldson into scoring position. George Kottaras never had a chance, waving feebly at a 74 MPH breaking ball for Fister's 4th strikeout, inning and threat over.

The Tigers weren't making Milone work hard in the 2nd. Delmon Young, first pitch swinging of course, send a can of corn to left. Peralta tried to drop a flair into right, Josh Reddick making a sliding grab. Andy Dirks kept the inning alive, necking a liner to right for a 2 out single. Garcia at the plate, Milone bouced a breaking ball into the dirt, the ball bouncing away from Kottaras. Dirks advanced to 2nd on a wild pitch with a head first slide.

Garcia nearly made it a 1-0 game when Milone sheared off his bat, resulting in a Texas leaguer which fell just foul. Garcia ultimately worked a base on balls, bringing up Gerald Laird with ducks on the pond. G-Money's body was money, hit by the first pitch from Milone, loading the bases for Austin Jackson.

Some hard luck got Milone into a jam, but he was able to pitch out of it. Jackson left the bases loaded, flying out to medium center.

The bats continued breaking in the 3rd. Fister broke Cliff Pennington's bat leading off the 3rd, yet he was able to lift a single over the head of Peralta. The A's sent Pennington on a 3-2 pitch to Crisp. On the resulting slow hopper to 3rd, Cabrera's throw pulled Fielder off the bag. It was ruled a base hit, in a bit of homer scoring.

Cespedes made the Tigers pay, lining a single to left, Pennington scoring without a throw to give the A's their 2nd 1-0 lead of the series. Moss bid to make it 2-0, singling to right. But Garcia, showing off why the Tigers wanted him on the playoff roster, came up throwing, firing a bullet to Laird. Garcia's1 hop throw nailed Crisp by 5 feet for out number 2.

Josh Reddick was called out looking for the 3rd out, Fister's 6th strikeout. Reddick had a hissy fit, throwing his bat in frustration. He was not the first A's batter to be upset with a large strike zone. You had to believe it was getting into their heads, and Fister, like Verlander, would take advantage.

1 down, bottom of 3, the Bash Brothers did their thing. Cabrera doubled for the 2nd consecutive at bat, Fielder followed with a single, Cabrera held at 3rd.

Young, ever the hacker, hacked at both the 1st and 2nd pitch from Milone. The 2nd hack nubbed a ground ball toward Moss at 1st. Cabrera broke for home on what had become, for all intents and purposes, a safety squeeze. Cabrera slid home with the tying run as Moss elected to take the sure out, tagging Young. Replays showed Moss had a play at the plate, the Tigers likely catching a break which allowed them to tie the game 1-1.

Top of 4, Fister allowed a lead off walk, then sent the next 3 A's down in order, along with recording his 7th strikeout. Fister made a nice play for the 3rd out, sprinting to 1st, beating a diving Pennington to the bag to take the throw from Fielder.

Milone countered with a 1-2-3 bottom of the 4th, highlighted by Drew robbing Garcia of a single. I had no idea shortstops with range were a thing...

Going into the 5th, the game couldn't have been much more even. Score tied 1-1, Tigers with 4 hits to the A's 5, A;s striking out 7 times to the Tigers' 5, Milone having thrown 73 pitches to Fister's 70. The only glaring difference was runners left on base, the Tigers 5, A's 9.

Fister had another quick inning, needing only 12 pitches to set the As down in order in the 5th. As did Milone, sending the top of Tigers' order down 1-2-3. Cabrera made a bid for his 3rd extra base hit, sending Crisp to deep right center for a 410+ foot 3rd out.

The Tigers' offense had gone into "Frustrate the fan base mode," 7 straight having taken a seat.

Luckily Fister was frustrating the A's as well. After hitting Moss with a pitch, Fister struck out an incredulous Moss, then Josh Donaldson grounded into the 6-3 double play. Yes, the Tigers turned a traditional double play.

The Tigers kept threatening to go yard, showing off warning track power. Fielder sent Reddick to deep left for the 1st out of the bottom of the 6th. With 2 down, the Tigers finally had themselves a base runner, Peralta singling. But Dirks channeled his inner Young, striking out on a breaking ball 2 feet out of the zone.

The A's broke out the small ball, playing for 1 run in the 7th. Fister walked Smith, Kottaras moving him over with a sacrifice. It worked, Crisp singling to center, Smith scoring easily. Fister got the next 2 outs without trouble, but the lead off walk was an absolute killer.

Given a lead, the A's went to their hard throwing, lights out as of late, bullpen. Rookie Sean Doolittle and his 11.4 strikeouts per 9 took over for Milone.

As if on script, Garcia struck out. Laird hit a first pitch slow roller to 2nd, an easy out number 2.

Then the game went entirely off script for the A's.

Jackson singled to center, Infante moving him to 2nd with a single to left. With 2 down, it was suddenly a worst case scenario for the A's. Runners in scoring position, the Triple Crown winner at the plate.

Cabrera took a big swing, but sent a looper into short center. Crisp, playing so deep he was closer to Oakland County than home plate, had to race in, trying to make the basket catch. Having to sprint in from a couple of steps in front of the warning track, Crisp bobbled, then dropped, Cabrera's fly for a 2 base, 2 RBI error, the Tigers taking a completely unexpected 3-2 lead.

Given a lead and Fister over 100 pitches, Jim Leyland went to the bullpen. Joaquin Benoit quickly got into trouble. What else is new?

Cespedes singled. He then proceeded to steal BOTH 2nd and 3rd base. He scored when Benoit's threw a wild pitch.

The crowd was livid, booing Benoit mercilessly.

Benoit then collapsed completely, Reddick yanking a home run just to the left of the 330 mark in right, giving the A's a shocking 4-3 lead.

And no, the fans weren't saying "Boo-urns."

Benoit managed to get out of the 8th only 1 run down. Desperation time for the Tigers as they now faced Ryan Cook and his 9.8 strikeouts per 9 in the bottom of the 8th. Leyland took out his scorecard, he was going to get busy.

Leading off, Young singled to right center. Don Kelly pinch ran for Young.

Peralta didn't hit the ball hard, but his soft liner was hard enough to get past Penningon, Kelly taking 2nd.. Danny Worth ran for Peralta.

Leyland called for Dirks to sacrifice bunt. By the way, Dirks hit .322 on the season. He bunted anyway. It wasn't pretty, but Dirks moved the runners over.

Quintin Berry pinch hit for Garcia. It was not a good decision by Leyland, sending the left handed Berry against a the fire-balling Cook. Berry was completely overwhelmed, striking out on 3 pitches.

Emptying the bench, Alex Avila pinch hit for Laird.

What one reliever giveth....well, so did another. Cook's first pitch to Avila skipped to the backstop, Kelly scoring without a play on the wild pitch. The Tigers had stunningly tied the game at 4-4.

Cook struck out Avila with the go-ahead run on 3rd, but the damage was done. Appeared to have flat lined after an awful top of the 8th, the Tigers stepped back from the light to tie the game.

Despite 3 straight right hand bats due up for the A's, Leyland went with lefty Phil Coke in relief of Benoit

Derek Norris pinch hit for Kottaras, struck out swinging. Pennington walked, Coke not receiving the benefit of the doubt of a Fister, a couple of borderline strike 2 pitches called balls.

Crisp hit a ball into the hole at short, Worth making a nice play to get the force (Peralta doesn't make that play, for what it's worth). Crisp kept the inning alive, called safe on a bang-bang play at 1st. Crisp's hustle paid off, Drew singling him to 3rd.

With the A's best hitter, Cespedes, due up, Leyland took a left turn at Al Alburquerque. 3 pitches and a kiss of the ball later, the threat was over. Alburquerque jammed Cespedes, tapping a come-backer to end the inning, giving the baseball a peck before he tossed it to Fielder.

Game tied, bottom of 9, the top of the Tigers' order due up. Meaning Cabrera would going to hit. A's manager Bob Melvin wasn't going to save his closer for a lead which may never arrive. Grant Balfour (and his 8.7 strikeouts per 9) started the inning for the A's.

Balfour struck out Jackson, but Infante lined a single to right center. Down 1-2, Cabrera just tried to make contact, singling to center, Infante racing to 3rd. The Tigers only needed a sacrifice fly to win the game.

The next 2 batters were Fielder and Kelly. What would you do? Exactly what the A's did, intentionally walk Fielder, loading the bases in order to pitch to the very light hitting Kelly.

The winning run 90 feet away, Balfour's 2nd pitch to Kelly was a belt high fastball. Kelly did his job to absolute perfection, driving a fly to right, more than deep enough for Infante to score the game winning run.


The Wizard was mobbed by the entire city of Detroit as the Tigers won 5-4 and take a stranglehold on the ALDS.

I can't think of a more odd-neat-strange-funny-happy way for the game to have ended than .187 hitting Don Kelly being Mr. October...again.


Bullets are brought to you by Don Kelly...who is somewhere in that pile.


  • The Tigers take a 2 games to none lead in the ALDS. The series heads back to Oakland, game 3 scheduled for Tuesday night.
  • 1 batter into the game, the MLB Network announcing team of Matt Vasgersian and Jim Kaat broke out a Billy Chapel reference.
  • Miguel Cabrera's 1st inning double was his 9th playoff extra base hit. He is tied with Craig Monroe for the 3rd most in franchise history. (Craig Monroe? I never would have guessed) Cabrera trails only Pete Fox (10) and Hammerin' Hank Greenberg (14).
  • Made up numbers via Mlive Tigers beat writer Chris Iott: With 18 strikeouts through 11 innings, the A's are on pace to strike out 4,928 times in this series. Higher if the series goes more than 3 games.
  • Not made up numbers by Joe Sheehan of Sports Illustrated and NBC: Through 11 innings, the A's have struck out in 42% of their plate appearances in this series.
  • MLB Network fact: Did you know Brandon Inge played with the Tigers before he joined the A's?
  • MLB Network harkened back to the Tigers - A's ALCS in 1972, and Campy Campaneris throwing his bat at Tigers' reliever Lerrin LaGrow. Campaneris had so much on the bat, LaGrow had to duck to avoid being clipped in the head. The A's SS was suspended, missing the final 3 games of the ALCS, and the first 7 games of the 1973 season, yet was allowed to play in the World Series. Things were much different in the 70's. Trust me on this, I was there.
  • The A's first 2 runs came via small ball. They sent the runner in the 2nd in hopes of staying out of the double play, and would ultimately score. In the 7th, a walk, bunt and single accounted for the 2nd A's run. It's proverbial death by paper cuts.
  • Allowing a base on balls is bad. Late game walks are EVIL.
  • Joaquin Benoit had a horrific 8th inning. His tendency to give up the long ball bit the Tigers. But as bad as the home run was, allowing Cespedes to steal bases at will is completely inexcusable. Whatever is wrong with Benoit, it hasn't been fixed. He had an awful 2nd half, allowing 10 home runs (after 4 in the 1st half) while posting a 5.52 ERA.
  • Why bunts are dumb: Andy Driks hit .322 in 2012. The only regular with a higher batting average is the reigning Triple Crown winner. Dirks already had 1 hit in the game. So lets take the bat out if his hands. I'm sorry, but that's f'n ridiculous.
  • Why bunts aren't dumb: The Tigers scored. Not exactly by design...but they did score with help from the bunt.
  • This was the Tigers 3-4-5 hitters in the bottom of the 9th: Cabrera and his .330 average, .313 hitting Fielder and Kelly, who hit .187 and was released in August. Guess who is the hero?
  • Kelly couldn't have picked a better time for his first walk off RBI. Jim Leyland has to be sobbing uncontrollably.
  • Not to be forgotten in lieu of Kelly's heroics, is the utility man doesn't have a chance at winning the game if Infante and Cabrera don't get on base against Balfour, who has been lights out in September.
  • The ALDS agrees with Kelly. He hit .364 with a 1.000 OPS against the Yankees in 2011. Today, Kelly scored a run and pushed across the game winner. Mr. Early October, indeed.
  • We have a mini-controversy, everybody. The A's aren't happy with Al Alburquerque kissing the ball before throwing out Cespedes. Via Dave Hogg of the AP: Josh Reddick - "We didn't appreciate that. I thought it was immature and not very professional. You don't do that on the field."
  • Johnny Gomes had this to say: "He must not believe in baseball gods. Baseball gods take care of that stuff."
  • What did the Tigers think of the kiss? Kelly had the answer: "We wondered if the ball kissed him back."
  • Bob Melvin = Rasheed Wallace in the post game presser: "Both teams played hard."
  • Kelly on the final at bat: "Of course he's going to pitch to me."


The A's bitched long and hard about the strike zone.


Taking a dead on throw from Garcia, Laird lays a hard tag on Crisp.


Crisp can't channel his inner Willie Mays or make the basket catch, gives the Tigers 2 runs


The "Kiss" which has reportedly infuriated the A's.





Don Kelly: How many times have Tigers fans complained about the inability to generate a sacrifice fly with a runner on 3rd? Too many to every count. But Kelly did just that, giving the Tigers a walk off win.

Miguel Cabrera: A typical afternoon, 3 hits, a run scored and a key 9th inning single setting up Kelly's heroics.

Doug Fister: He's the reason I predicted the Tigers would win both games in Detroit, instead of a split. Fister did not disappoint, with a 7 inning, 6 hit, 2 run, 8 strikeout performance.


Omar Infante: 2 hits, started the 9th inning rally.

Al Alburquerque and Phil Coke: Did what Benoit couldn't, pitch a scoreless inning of relief.


Joaquin Benoit: UGH., Just...UGH.


It was never in doubt. Justin Verlander was BYB PotG with an overwhelming 95% of the vote.