Wild finish gives Tigers big lead in series
By MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency
|Detroit Tigers Don Kelly is congratulated by teammate Alex Avila after scoring on a wild pitch by Oakland Athletics pitcher Ryan Cook during the eighth inning of Game 2 in their MLB ALDS playoff baseball series in Detroit, Michigan October 7, 2012. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook
DETROIT - It was crazy, wildly entertaining and had as many twists and turns as one of the finest mystery novels, the kind you'd say wasn't written very well but couldn't put down.
The ending was a lot like a work of fiction. The almost-forgotten player who nearly didn't make the roster turns out to be the hero, driving in the deciding run in the Detroit Tigers 5-4 win over the Oakland Athletics Sunday.
The win gives the Tigers a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five American League Division Championship. They can close it out Tuesday in Oakland.
But if the rest of the series goes anything like the second game, nothing will be certain.
This game has so much to talk about and it starts with the ending.
The guy who ended it was outfielder Don Kelly.
He came in to pinch run in the eighth inning with the Tigers down by a run and wound up scoring the tying run on a wild pitch. But wait, it gets better.
In the bottom of the ninth, the A's opted to load the bases when they walked Prince Fielder to pitch to Kelly. He promptly lofted a fly ball to right field that scored Omar Infante with the winning run and sent Comerica Park into a frenzy.
"I'll bet you didn't see that coming," chortled Tigers' Miguel Cabrera to the media. "I bet you all thought strikeout."
No doubt a lot of people where indeed thinking strikeout.
Kelly spent time in the minors during the season. He hit .186 in 75 games in the majors and was the last selection for the Tigers on the post-season roster.
"That's what a team's all about, everyone making contributions," said Tigers' manager Jim Leyland.
Kelly was about probably the guy everyone least expected to get a chance to make an impact on the series.
"To be able to contribute in that situation in a playoff game, it's almost surreal," Kelly said. "It's hard to tell you how I felt."
In truth, much of the game was almost surreal.
It went from a pitching duel between the Tigers' Doug Fister and A's starter Tommy Milone over the first seven innings to a wild west show over the final two.
It became a question of anything you can do, I can do better.
The A's took a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the seventh when the fireworks started.
With two outs, Austin Jackson and Omar Infante singled to bring Cabrera to the plate. This year's Triple Crown champ hit a sinking fly to centre that Coco Crisp tried to make a basket catch on. Most everyone was giving Crisp a pass but he could have made a much easier catch and wound up juggling the ball like a hot potato. Both runners scored to give the Tigers a 3-2 lead. A little hot-dogging cost the A's two runs.
Tigers' reliever Joaquin Benoit relieved Fister six outs from a 2-0 series lead.
He was greeted by a single from Yoenis Cespedes. The Tigers probably went for a snooze and allowed Cespedes to steal second and third. He then scored when Benoit threw a wild pitch with Josh Reddick at the plate to tie the game 3-3.
Reddick has struck out six times in the series but Benoit couldn't finish him off. Reddick took Benoit over the right-field fence for a 4-3 lead.
For the third time on the day, the Tigers came back from being down in the same inning when Kelly scored on the wild pitch, setting up his heroics in the ninth.
Those are just some of the whacky and key happenings in this baseball game.
It was a game with wonderful and wonderfully sloppy pitching, (including Tigers pitcher Al Alburquerque riling up the A's by kissing the baseball before making the third out in the ninth inning) controversial managerial moves, likely and unlikely heroes and enough ups and downs to please the most invenerate adrenaline junkies.
"My thoughts on the game," said A's manager Bob Melvin. "It was certainly a good game for the fans. Both teams played hard. Both teams got big hits and did good things at the right moments and both teams made some mistakes that got the other team in the game."
That's about as concise as it gets for Game 2, with the promise of more goofy goings-on in Games 3 or however long this series is going to go.