On a night when Oakland-born boxer Andre Ward threw out the first pitch, the A’s avoided being knocked out of the playoffs by fighting their way back from a two run ninth inning deficit to beat the Tigers.
Coco Crisp was the hero Wednesday, following three Oakland hits with a game-winning RBI single to give the A’s their fifteenth walk off victory of the season, forcing a winner-take-all game five Thursday night.
“We’ve done it too many times down this road to feel like we aren’t going to win,” said Bob Melvin on the comeback. “Its a very contagious feeling in our dugout, we just don’t feel like its going to end for us.”
That is the team that Oakland has been all year long, resilient with the flare for the dramatic.
“Its amazing.” An excited Crisp expressed after the game. “We’ve been battling the whole year, giving it one-hundred-percent, and these walk offs have just been our M.O.”
A.J. Griffin, the Major League record third rookie starting pitcher of the series for the A’s, scattered seven hits over five innings to keep his team close leading into the late innings.
Detroit starting pitcher Max Scherzer kept the Oakland lineup quiet through the first five innings, and Prince Fielder’s mammoth fourth inning home run silenced the once raucous audience.
Momentum for Oakland rose and fell on the same sequence during the fifth inning.
After Crisp reached on an error, Stephen Drew launched a laser into the right-center field gap, but was thrown out by a mile at third base attempting to stretch a double into a triple. The RBI hit did chase Scherzer from the game, forcing the Detroit bullpen to record the next 11 outs.
Anticipation began to build in the bottom of the ninth, as “Let’s go Oakland” chants rained down from the capacity Coliseum crowd that was not ready to have its 2012 season ended.
With the Tigers eccentric closer Jose Valverde taking the mound, Josh Reddick singled to lead off the inning followed by a booming Josh Donaldson double.
“Let’s do this!” Donaldson, the potential tying run, yelled to his dugout from second base.
Three pitches later Seth Smith laced a two-RBI double into right-center, evening the score, and igniting the fans into a riot of bliss.
Three batters later Crisp’s walk off hit extended the A’s seemingly magical season for at least one more day.
“We go out there we play hard, carefree, and get the job done,” said Smith. “There is no magic recipe.”
The postseason walk off win was the seventh in franchise history, and the first since Ramon Hernandez ended game one of the 2003 ALDS against Boston with a twelfth inning RBI bunt single.
The A’s will face reigning MVP and game one winning pitcher Justin Verlander Thursday night in Oakland. Jarrod Parker will take the hill for the Athletics in a series deciding game five for the right to move on to the ALCS.