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2012 ALDS: Tigers win Game 2 on walkoff sacrifice fly

Don Kelly struck a sacrifice fly with the bases loaded in the ninth to give the Tigers a 5-4 win and 2-0 lead in the ALDS as the series moves to Oakland.

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Tigers take commanding 2-0 ALDS lead in wild game

The Detroit Tigers, behind an error, a wild pitch, and a sac fly, came from behind to defeat the Oakland Athletics, 5-4.

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A's steal, power their way to 4-3 lead in 8th

Holy turnaround.

Not long after the Tigers took a 3-2 lead with a couple of gift runs -- thanks to Coco Crisp's error in center field, in the bottom of the seventh -- the A's stormed back in the top of the eighth with two runs of their own.

The first of them was about as cheap as they come. With Tigers starter Doug Fister out of the game after throwing 107 pitches, usual eighth-inning reliever Joaquin Benoit took over on the mound. Yoenis Cespedes led off with a single, then stole second base ... and third base, without a throw ... and sprinted home when Benoit skipped a pitch past catcher Gerald Laird.

Just like that, the game was tied.

On the very next pitch, Josh Reddick -- who had struck out six times in this series already -- drove a hanging change-up over the right-field wall.

Just like that, the Athletics had their slim lead back.

Benoit did retire the next two A's, leaving Oakland's bullpen in the most precarious of positions. But one of the keys to the Athletics' late-season surge has been the brilliance of Ryan Cook in the eighth inning and Grant Balfour in the ninth. They're right where they want to be, with six outs to get.

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A's use small ball to take 2-1 lead

Doug Fister is a command maven; if he can't place the ball exactly where he wants it, there could be problems. And in the top of the seventh, Fister walked Seth Smith to lead off the inning. It was the second leadoff walk Fister had issued in the game, but this is the one that cost him.

Catcher George Kottaras bunted Smith over to second, and then Cliff Pennington, sitting on a fastball in a 2-0 count, lined a single into left-center to score Smith. That'd be some quality small ball; if it worked that well every time, managers would probably stop bunting just to annoy statheads, who would clamor for more bunting.

The run put the A's up 2-1, and now they're relying on their bullpen, as lefty reliever Sean Doolittle is in for the seventh inning. Tom Milone went six innings, walking one, striking out six, and allowing a run on five hits.

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Game 2 still 1-1 in bottom of the 6th

After five innings, this was looking like a pitcher's game.

And so perhaps this is the right time to mention that neither the Tigers nor the A's were exactly hitting powerhouses this season. The Tigers finished sixth in the league in scoring, the Athletics eighth.

Granted, those rankings probably understate both teams' cases some.

Well, the A's anyway. They actually finished third in the league in road scoring and they were significantly more potent in the second half of the season than the first, due at least partly to personnel changes. But with the A's playing their home games in an extreme pitcher's park and with Comerica Park in frigid autumn conditions, we shouldn't expect to see a great deal of offense in this series.

Oh, and there are some pretty good pitchers on both staffs, too.

In the top of the sixth, Doug Fister plunked the leadoff man, but he was later erased by a double play. We're in the bottom of the sixth and it's still tied, 1-1.

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Tigers' Garcia can throw, and it's 1-1 after 3

That didn't take long. In the top of the third inning, Tigers rookie Avisail Garcia announced his presence with authority. With runners on first and second and just one out, and the A's having already grabbed a 1-0 lead, Brandon Moss shot a single into right field. With Coco Crisp sprinting around third base, Garcia fielded the baseball and unleashed a perfect throw home, where Gerald Laird applied the tag just in time to nab Crisp. That saved at least one run, as Doug Fister then escaped more damage by striking out Josh Reddick to end the inning.

Garcia, already famous for his resemblance to fellow Venezuelan Miguel Cabrera, started only 11 games for the Tigers during the regular season. He opened the season in Class A, and finished his minor-league campaign in Double-A before getting the call to the big club in September.

Garcia's stock rose a ton during the season, as last spring he was listed by Baseball America as just the Tigers' 10th-best prospect. It's not clear that he's ready to hit well in the majors, but his defense is there already. As Baseball America noted, "He has the physical ability to be a plus defender in right field, running well for his size and possessing an arm that earns 70 grades on the 20-80 scouting scale."

In the bottom of the third, Miguel Cabrera hit his second double of the game, moved to third on Prince Fielder's single to left field, and scored on a fielder's-choice grounder. Tommy Milone did strike out Jhonny Peralta to retire the side, so after three innings we're deadlocked: Athletics 1, Tigers 1.

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A's get a run, miss out on chance for more

You'd have to be a fool to think this is the kind of game that would go quickly. The A's put a gaggle of runners on base in the top of the third inning, and they scored a run to go up 1-0. But that's all they scored -- a bittersweet outcome considering how the inning played out.

Cliff Pennington singled to open the inning, looping a soft liner to Andy Dirks, who has sweet hair. Coco Crisp then hit a chopper to Miguel Cabrera, who charged with the grace of of Reggie Jackson trying to kill the Queen, and threw wide, pulling Prince Fielder off the bag at first.

Stephen Drew took a called third strike on a front-door sinker, but Yoenis Cespedes rapped a curveball into left for an RBI single that scored Pennington. Brandon Moss hit a 3-1 change into right field in the next at-bat, but Avisail Garcia gunned the speedy Crisp down at home with a perfect throw for the second out.

Josh Reddick then struck out on the exact same pitch that got Drew in the first at-bat. He was less than thrilled, and barely managed to stay in the game after expending most of his removable equipment.

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This game is going to last an hour

I'm starting this with one out in the ... with two outs in the top of the second. If these calculations are right, it will be the bottom of the seventh by the time I'm done. Here goes.

Doug Fister doesn't walk people. Tom Milone doesn't walk people. Fister works quickly. Milone works quickly. This game is going to last an hour.

Milone was ninth among qualified starting pitchers with 1.71 walks per nine innings. Fister would have been 19th if he had qualified with a 2.06 mark.

The Tigers are well above the league average at making contact with pitches out of the strike zone. Tommy Milone thrives on getting hitters to make contact with pitches out of the strike zone.

The A's are the worldwide leader in strikeouts, but they do it a little differently than most whiffing teams -- they actually chase fewer pitches out of the strike zone than 28 of the 30 teams. Fister throws a lot of pitches in the strike zone, but he's also something of a strikeout pitcher now.

This should be a quick, well-pitched game.

Or not. It's the bottom of the second, not the bottom of the seventh. Fister hit a guy, and Milone labored in an at-bat that ended in a walk to Avisail Garcia, and then he hit Gerald Laird with his very next pitch ... which all ruins the point I was trying to make.

Going to post this right quick before the Tigers score ... wait, no, Austin Jackson flew out to end the threat.

I'll shut up now. This game is going to last four hours and end 11-10.

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Bob Melvin's Game 2 lineup

With Game 2 underway in the Athletics' and Tigers' Division Series, here is Oakland's lineup:

1. Coco Crisp# - CF
2. Stephen Drew* - SS
3. Yoenis Cespedes, LF
4. Brandon Moss* - 1B
5. Josh Reddick* - RF
6. Josh Donaldson, 3B
7. Seth Smith* - DH
8. George Kottaras* - C
9. Cliff Pennington# - 2B

With right-hander Doug Fister starting for Detroit, this lineup is heavily stacked with left-handed hitters and switch-hitters. Which makes sense, though it's worth noting that Fister hasn't been particularly ineffective against lefty hitters in his career.

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