By Sam McPherson
The requiem had been written for the 2012 Oakland A’s.
And then like so many times before, lightning struck through the bats of the home team at the O.co Coliseum in Oakland, and these Athletics are still alive for a Game Five.
Trailing 3-1, the A’s strung together three straight hits to begin the bottom of the ninth inning, tying the game, and then with two outs, Coco Crisp delivered the game-winning hit, scoring Seth Smith from second base with a single to right field. Oakland’s 4-3 win in this Game Four sets the stage for a winner-take-all showdown with Detroit tomorrow night at the Coliseum.
Game Five starts at 6:37 p.m. Thursday.
The A’s won 14 games in their final at-bat this season, tops in the major leagues. So they had the confidence heading into the bottom of the ninth that good things could happen — and they did: Josh Reddick singled, Josh Donaldson doubled, and after Seth Smith drove both of them in to tie the game with a double, Oakland found itself down to its last out with Crisp at the plate.
It wasn’t a do-or-die situation for the A’s center fielder, but Crisp has thrived this regular season in his 91 at-bats with runners in scoring position — and he came through again, lining a shot past the Detroit second baseman into short right field. When Tigers right fielder Avisail Garcia couldn’t field the ball cleanly, Smith scored without a throw to the plate.
And the A’s went wild … again. The crowd — 36,385 strong — exploded as well, knowing the Green and Gold would be playing one more time in front of them.
But it never seemed possible, the way most of the night went previously. Oakland struggled, perhaps predictably, against Detroit starter Max Scherzer, and they only scored their first run of the game off him thanks to an error by Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder. Scherzer struck out eight batters in only 5 1/3 innings, and the A’s struck out three more times before their big comeback in the ninth.
Oakland starter A.J. Griffin pitched well enough — in fact, the A’s have gotten pretty good pitching this entire series — for five innings, giving up only two runs against the strong Detroit lineup. Jerry Blevins pitched two scoreless innings, and while Sean Doolittle gave up a run in the eighth inning, Ryan Cook got the final four outs to keep the game close enough for the A’s offense to steal it in the ninth.
For Crisp, it was sweet redemption for the two-run error he made in Game Two, which contributed to the A’s losing a very winnable game in Detroit.
Thursday’s game now features a rematch of the Game One match-up, so Oakland will have to conquer Justin Verlander in order to advance in the playoffs. Then again, maybe the A’s can just wait until the Cy Young winner is out of the game, like they did tonight against a dominant Scherzer.
This Oakland team just defies explanation, rationalization and elimination. They never quit.
Detroit is just the latest team to discover this first hand, and how the Tigers respond on Thursday will be interesting. We all know the A’s will show up, ready to play and win, right up to their last out.
Jarrod Parker gets the start for Oakland in Game Five, one of the esteemed rookies leading this team all summer long. He has lost two starts to Verlander this season, one on Mother’s Day at the Coliseum and then last Saturday in Game One at Comerica Park.
Perhaps the third time will be the charm for Parker … and the A’s.
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering all things Oakland A’s. His work can be found on Examiner.com.