Gee, that's odd. I thought the A's were just going to go away quietly. You think you know baseball, and then something like this happens.
The A's did not go quietly. They were playing in an elimination game, and it sure looked like they were about to go quietly. They were quiet all night, staying away from first base as if it were covered in gonorrhea. And when they finally broke through for a little something against Tigers pitching, they stranded the runners.
In the ninth, though, Josh Reddick led the inning off with a seeing-eye single just under Omar Infante's glove and into right field. Josh Donaldson boomed a double to left that just missed going out, putting runners on second and third with no one out. Seth Smith tied the game with a double to right, putting the winning run on second.
George Kottaras popped out on the first pitch, keeping Smith where he was, and Cliff Pennington struck out looking for two outs. On the first pitch of his at-bat, though, Coco Crisp lined a single into right field, bringing Smith around to score. And there will be a Game 5 after all.
Considering how the A's have been hitting in this series, the Tigers' 2-1 lead actually looked pretty safe. But in the top of the eighth, they ripped three singles against Sean Doolittle and made it 3-1.
Omar Infante opened the frame with a single, and moved to second on Austin Jackson's sacrifice bunt. With Quintin Berry due next, Jim Leyland sent up rookie Avisail Garcia to pinch-hit, and he came through with a sharp single to right field, Infante scoring easily. After another base hit, Ryan Cook trotted in from the bullpen and extinguished the fire. But now the A's chore is doubly hard: they're down 3-1, their season perhaps down to its last six outs.
Al Alburquerque was in a bit of a ballyhoo after he kissed a baseball in Game 2. The A's weren't livid, exactly, but it was something they noticed. Jonny Gomes said the "baseball gods" would take care of the situation.
Alburquerque's first batter was Josh Donaldson. He lined a sure hit right to the second baseman, who caught it for out #1. The first rule about the baseball gods is that you don't talk about the baseball gods. The second rule about the baseball gods is that YOU DON'... wait, no, the second rule about the baseball gods is that they're complete asses. So of course the first A's batter Alburquerque faces hits into BABIP hell.
After that, it was a quite inning. Seth Smith was called out on strikes, taking a slider high in the zone, and Derek Norris grounded out to third to end the inning.
The dream season of the A's is six outs away from ending unless they can scratch out a run against the Tigers' bullpen.
One of Phil Coke's idiosyncrasies is that when pitching, he'll point at any ball batted in the air. Typically a pitcher does this to signal the ball is in the infield, but Coke cares not for the proximity. When Reddick flew to deep center field, here was Coke's initial reaction:
As Tigers fans gasped for air on a possible go-ahead homer, Coke knew all along.
Max Scherzer was cruising. Sandy Koufax? Bob Gibson? Miguel Gonzalez? They didn't have nothing on Max Scherzer. Through five innings of Game 4, he'd struck out eight Athletics in five innings, and none of the A's had even dared glance at second base. Let alone tread on it.
And then it went away. Coco Crisp led off the bottom of the sixth and, after eight pitches, drove a pitch through Prince Fielder. Here's the Benny Hill version of that:
And the very next batter, Stephen Drew, drove Scherzer's 90th pitch of the evening into the right-field gap, scoring Crisp with the A's first run and sending Drew to third base.
Well, sort of. He was actually out at third base by about 10 feet, although technically he did actually touch third base. Just not in time to avoid committing one of baseball's Cardinal Sins. So instead of having the tying run on second base with nobody out, the A's had the tying run in the batter's box with one out. Somewhere, Billy Beane was driving his pickup truck down the highway and punching his dashboard.
Jim Leyland, meanwhile, had seen enough of Scherzer. He summoned Octavio Dotel from the bullpen, and Dotel struck out Yoenis Cespedes. Dotel stayed in to face lefty-hitting Brandon Moss, and walked him. That brought up lefty-hitting Josh Reddick, which brought out Jim Leyland, who brought out lefty Phil Coke.
Reddick sent Coke's second pitch for a ride, but Austin Jackson gathered in the ball on the cusp of the warning track in deep center field.
So after six innings, it's Tigers 2, Athletics 1. And now we're in for a battle of the bullpens.
You knew that a pitcher with 11 K/9 facing a free swingin' team like the A's was a recipe for many whiffs. A whiff casserole. Whiff stroganoff. Pineapple upside-down whiff cake. And many other delicacies.
Through five innings Max Scherzer has fanned a total of eight batters and retired 12 in a row before a Seth Smith walk. A Derek Norris snorter down the right field line put runners on the corners before Cliff Penningtonswung and missed badly. For those counting — and I guess that's only me — Oakland batters have swung and missed 16 times tonight.
Let's get the obvious out of the way: The A's strike out a ton. Max Scherzer strikes out more hitters than anyone in baseball. The A's are striking out against Max Scherzer -- five so far through four innings, with just one hit. Sometimes baseball is weird, and sometimes it's a magazine you've already read.
The Tigers have a 2-0 lead to support Scherzer, getting the first run in the third inning. Alex Avila doubled to lead off the inning, and he was moved to third on a sacrifice. Austin Jackson made the sac bunt superfluous, though, singling to left for the Tigers' first RBI hit since Game 1.
And in the fourth, this happened:
You really shouldn't pitch him there.
Rookie A.J. Griffin has allowed six hits, and he hasn't walked or struck out a batter.
The Detroit Tigers lost Game 3 Tuesday to the Oakland Athletics, but still stand just one win away from advancing to the American League Championship Series. They've made a couple of changes in both personnel and lineup order for Wednesday's Game 4 (* indicates left-handed hitter):
Several changes have been made: Avila in place of Gerald Laird at catcher and Quintin Berry in place of Avisail Garcia. Garcia played right field Tuesday; Andy Dirks will switch from left to right field Wednesday and Quintin Berry will play left and bat second. Omar Infante, who hit in the No. 2 spot Tuesday, drops to ninth.
After defeating the Detroit Tigers for their first win in their ALDS, the Oakland Athletics and manager Bob Melvin have decided that they'll put the same starting nine on the field Wednesday night for Game 4 (* indicates left-handed hitter, # indicates switch-hitter):
This lineup will be facing Tigers righthander Max Scherzer. Scherzer faced the A's September 18 in Detroit, the game he had to leave after two innings due to what was termed "shoulder fatigue". Scherzer has pitched twice since then with, presumably, no ill effects, so he should be ready to go.