Oakland A's use three-run ninth to even series
By MELISSA COUTO, QMI Agency
|Oakland Athletics center fielder Coco Crisp (top) is surrounded by teammates after hitting the game-winning RBI in the ninth inning to defeat the Detroit Tigers in Game 4 of their MLB ALDS playoff baseball series in Oakland, California October 10, 2012. (REUTERS)
The crowd chanted for a comeback at Oaklandís O.Co Coliseum, and they got it.
After battling through adversity in the 2012 season, after instilling hope with a Game 3 do-or-die win, after trailing for much of Game 4, the Oakland Athletics forced a deciding Game 5 with a 4-3 walk-off win over the Detroit Tigers in the American League Division Series on Wednesday night.
And they have Coco Crisp to thank.
With two out in the bottom of the ninth, the centre fielder ripped a single up the middle to score Seth Smith from second base.
For the team who had 44 come-from-behind-wins over the regular season, it was business as usual. Detroit started strong, but Oakland prevailed.
Detroit catcher Alex Avila got things started for the visiting team with a lead-off double in the top of the third inning. After a sacrifice bunt from Omar Infante, Avila was brought home by an Austin Jackson single to make it a 1-0 game.
Then it was Prince Fielder, snapping his 1-for-13 post-season stretch with a solo shot to centre field off A.J. Griffin to lead off the fourth inning. After struggling with unlucky breaks over the first three games of the ALDS, Fielder breathed a sigh of relief as he triumphantly rounded the bases with a smile from ear to ear, watching the ball sail over the wall for his fifth career post-season home run.
Oakland began its remarkable comeback in the bottom of the sixth. After a lead-off double by Crisp, the centre fielder advanced to third base on a wild pitch and was brought home on a double by Stephen Drew.
Down 3-1 heading into the final frame, Reddick began the improbable rally against Tigers closer Jose Valverde with a single. Josh Donaldson kept it going with a double and Smith drove them both in with a line drive to centrefield.
And with the winning run on second base and two outs in the ninth, Crisp took the victory.
NO DOUBT SCHERZER
When Scherzer ended the regular season with two separate injuries -Ė a weakness in his throwing arm which caused him to miss one of his last scheduled start and a sprained ankle that he suffered after one of his teammates accidentally stepped on him during their AL Central clinching celebration on Oct. 1 -Ė no one seemed sure how the Tigers starter would perform on the mound in Game 4.
Was he healthy enough? Would the Athletics jump all over any sign of weakness?
All doubt was erased once the 28-year-old went through the Athletics order for the first time, striking out five batters through the first three innings. After giving up a single to the third batter he faced, Yoenis Cespedes, Scherzer retired 12 Aís in a row before walking Smith in the bottom of the fifth.
In a series marked by impeccable pitching, it was Scherzer who shined through Game 4.
The righty struck out eight through five innings, allowing four hits and one unearned run.
THE YOUTH FACTOR
As the ALDS has shown over the past four games, Bob Melvinís 2012 Oakland Athletics are certainly a team to watch in the future, regardless of what happens in Thursday's contest.
Amidst all the playoff inexperience in this roster lies a youthful vigor unique to the Athletics.
Nearly half of the players on Melvinís 25-man playoff roster are rookies, going through a post-season run for the first time in their careers. With 12 in total, this group of Aís boasts the most rookies used in a postseason since the 2007 Arizona Diamondbacks, a team which was also managed by Melvin.
And those rookies arenít limited to position players either.
Griffin was the third freshman pitcher to get a start for Oakland in the ALDS, making the Aís the team with the most rookies in a post-season starting rotation in MLB history.
Though young, Melvinís rookie starters have already made quite an impression throughout the series. Griffin pitched 5 1/3 innings, striking out one and allowing two runs on five hits on Wednesday. Jarrod Parker gave up two runs on seven hits through 6 1/3 innings in Game 1. And Tommy Milone went six innings in Game 2, striking out six and allowing one run on five hits.
KINGS OF THE K'S
The Oakland Athletics may be getting things done offensively, but they also came into Wednesday's game with 27 strikeouts as a team. Through the first three games, right fielder Josh Reddick and first baseman Brandon Moss led the squad with six and five respectively.
With Scherzer pitching masterfully for the Tigers, Game 4 offered the freely-swinging Aís much of the same. Reddick struck out twice while first baseman Brandon Moss picked up two more to bring the team total to 39.
Though those numbers are high, itís not exactly anything the Aís arenít used to this season. Through 156 games in 2012, Reddick racked up 151 strikeouts. Moss, meanwhile, finished the regular season with 90 strikeouts in 84 games.
Fielderís fourth-inning blast to centre field marked the Tigers' first basemanís first RBI of the ALDS. Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera, though 5-for-16 in the last four games, is still waiting for his.
The good news? Both have at least one more chance to drive in runs and get that number up.