Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Al Alburquerque throws against the Oakland Athletics during the ninth inning of Game 2 in their MLB ALDS playoff baseball series in Detroit, Michigan October 7, 2012. (REUTERS)
DETROIT - It wasn’t Dennis Eckersley shooting an imaginary six-gun into the Blue Jays dugout like in 1992, but it was close.
Tigers reliever Al Alburquerque fielded a Yoenis Cespedes comebacker with two out and two on, but before tossing under-handed to first for final out of the ninth, he kissed the ball.
After the Tigers scored for a 5-4 walkoff win and a 2-0 lead on the Oakland A’s, Alburquerque’s smooch may have been symbolic for kissing the A’s post-season goodbye too.
“A kiss is just a kiss” is the way the lyric from Casablanca goes, but Alburquerque was closer to The Eck than Humphrey Bogart.
“I did (see it),” said A’s Josh Reddick. “I didn’t appreciate it. That’s immature. It was very unprofessional. I didn’t appreciate that, at all.”
Was it showing up the A’s?
“That’s exactly what it was. I don’t think anybody, whether they’ve been in the big leagues one day or 15 years should do that,” Reddick said. “Enjoy yourself sure. Do that stuff in the dugout when nobody’s watching.”
Alburquerque has 49 games in the majors over the past two seasons.
After Eckersley fanned Ed Sprague to end the eighth 20 years ago, Devon White singled to open the ninth before Robbie Alomar produced his hands-over-the-head no-doubter to right for a two-run homer, tying the game. The Jays won in extras for a 3-1 lead moving to within a game of the World Series.
The A’s won’t have a chance to face Tigers pitching again until Tuesday night, Game 3 in Oakland.
He stood 6-foot-3 in 1987 and was the difference between the Jays making post-season play authoring the greatest collapse in franchise history.
Larry Herndon hit 107 career homers in 14 years. His 98th came on the final day of the season, a second inning fly ball off Jimmy Key, clearing the blue fencing in left at Tiger Stadium, that killed the Jays’ playoff hopes.
Frank Tanana pitched a complete game, beating the Jays 1-0 for Toronto’s seventh straight loss.
“I remember 1987 ... good times, fun times,” said Herndon after throwing out the ceremonial first pitch on Sunday. Sparky Anderson’s Tigers were ousted in the ’87 ALCS by the Minnesota Twins, but three years earlier, Herndon hit .333 with a homer beating the San Diego Padres in the 1984 Series. “Kids ask what’s it like to play in the Series? I say like the first day in the majors, you can’t feel your feet. You’re walking on air.”
Avisail Garcia started his second season in the minors with the class-A Lakeland Flying Tigers, playing 66 games. He played 55 more with double-A Erie before spending the final month with Detroit.
In the third inning on Sunday, the raw 21-year-old outfielder showed why he was added to the playoff roster over veteran Brennan Boesch. Garcia charged a Brandon Moss single to and threw out Coco Crisp at the plate keeping the game tied 1-1 in the third. The Venezuelan native is slated to be the Tigers right-fielder next season.
“Everyone concentrates on offence,” manager Jim Leyland said. “But when you have a guy with a good arm, that can hit and run, plus the capability of throwing someone out, that’s why you call him a tools player.”
Miguel Cabrera doubled to left centre and singled his first two times up, but his most productive at-bat was a two-out bloop to centre. A hard-charging Crisp had hands of steel and the ball clanked loose, allowing two runs to score for an E8 and a 3-2 Tiger lead.
“He didn’t say anything when he came in the dugout, he didn’t have to,” said reliever Sean Doolittle. “We’ve seen him make that play. (Cabrera) took a healthy cut. I don’t think he got a bad jump. If he did, that makes it all the more impressive that he got that close to catching it.”
Said Reddick, who had a good view from right: “He got stuck between sliding and breaking it down plus he short-armed it a little.”
Tigers reliever Joaquin Benoit gave up 14 homers this season after allowing five last year and six in 2010. After Cespedes stole second, third and scored on a wild pitch in the eighth, Reddick hit a solo homer, giving the A’s a 4-3 lead. Before the game-tying wild pitch, Reddick fouled off two Benoit pitches. He had been 0-for-6 with six strikeouts in the series.
Good one gone
Not all of the 2,099,663 fans who came to the Rogers Centre this season knew Vic Zakary. If you entered Gate 9 headed to the press box, you did. Vic manned Gate 9, working for the Jays since 1993. He passed Thursday at age 73. Visition is Monday from 2-5 p.m., and the service will be Tuesday at 2 p.m., at Kane Funeral Home on Yonge St. Deepest sympathies to his wife Jill -- they recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary -- son David, daughter Heather and grandson Connor, plus Vic’s sister Anne.
Not sure who wins Game 3, but we’re guessing Leyland will apologize for his pitcher’s actions before Game 3.