DETROIT – A clubhouse celebration seemed on tap for the A’s on Tuesday night.
Instead, their postgame agenda consisted of a flight home to Oakland, left to prepare for a Game 5 scenario that must feel painfully familiar. The A’s coughed up two different leads in Game 4 of the American League Division Series and lost 8-6 to the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park.
That sets up a deciding Game 5 on Thursday at the Coliseum. The man they’ll face on the mound is Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander, who shut them out in last year’s Game 5 of the ALDS at the Coliseum.
Theoretically, this is when home-field advantage kicks in for a team, and the crowd surely will be rocking in support of the A’s. But can the A’s summon some magic after the gut-wrenching manner in which they went down Tuesday night?
They led 3-0 before Dan Straily served up Jhonny Peralta’s tying three-run homer in the fifth. They jumped back ahead 4-3 on Coco Crisp’s RBI single in the top of the seventh, only to watch normally trusty reliever Sean Doolittle give up the tying and go-ahead runs in the bottom of the seventh.
Adding salt to the wound, Ryan Cook and Brett Anderson combined to allow three runs in the eighth to give Detroit a four-run cushion.
Bartolo Colon is scheduled to start Game 5 for the A’s unless they decide to bring back rookie Sonny Gray, who would be on his normal four days’ rest. Gray outdueled Verlander at the Coliseum in a memorable Game 2 showdown that Oakland won 1-0.
Game 5 will be packed with anticipation and drama, but the A’s will fly home knowing that they had every chance to avoid it.
Starting pitching report
Rookie Dan Straily went six innings and allowed three runs, and if A’s fans were given that outing as an option leading into the game, they probably would have taken it. But one pitch in the fifth inning changed his entire night. After not allowing a hit through the first four innings, Straily gave up consecutive singles to Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez to open the fifth. Then Straily caught too much plate with a 2-2 pitch and Jhonny Peralta mashed a three-run homer to tie it 3-3.
Straily hadn’t allowed a homer over his final four regular-season starts. Before Peralta’s homer, the A’s had held the Tigers scoreless in 29 of the first 31 innings of this series.
Straily stayed in and struck out the side in the sixth. He gave up four hits over six innings, struck out eight and walked none. You can’t pin this one on him given the way the rest of the night played out.
Manager Bob Melvin had to feel good handing a 4-3 lead over to his bullpen for the final three innings. But trouble hit in the bottom of the seventh, and it didn’t take long. Victor Martinez hit Doolittle’s second pitch of the inning for a game-tying homer to right field. As Josh Reddick jumped for the ball, it hit off a fan’s hands just above Reddick’s reach. Melvin argued and it went to an instant replay review, but the umpires ruled no fan interference, and the homer stood to make it 4-4. Replays appeared to show the ball may have been just out of Reddick’s extended reach.
Peralta followed with a double down the left-field line. After Alex Avila struck out and Omar Infante lined out, Jose Iglesias walked to put runners on first and second. Austin Jackson, who had struck out 10 times in his first 15 plate appearances in this series, hit a broken-bat single that dropped in front of Reddick in right to bring home the go-ahead run.
Things went downhill for Oakland’s bullpen in the eighth as the wheels came off for Cook and Anderson.
At the plate
The A’s were following their offensive game plan, chipping away at Tigers right-hander Doug Fister and working up his pitch count. Coco Crisp led off the game with a triple and scored on Jed Lowrie’s first base hit of the series. Lowrie came through again in the top of the fifth, drilling a two-run homer to right that put Oakland on top 3-0.
But the A’s went 3 for 13 with runners in scoring position. They had an epic failure in the top of the eighth. Detroit had Game 1 starter Max Scherzer on the mound in relief but the likely Cy Young winner was vulnerable. He loaded the bases with no outs only to pull the rug out from under the A’s. Josh Reddick went down swinging on a full-count breaking ball for the first out. Then Stephen Vogt struck out on a 98 mile-per-hour fastball and pinch hitter Alberto CAllaspo lined out softly to center to end a golden opportunity to tie or take the lead.
Trailing 8-4 in the ninth, the A’s closed to within two on Yoenis Cespedes' two-run single. But Seth Smith waved at strike three from Joaquin Benoit to end it.
In the field
There were no errors in this one.
For the second straight year, the A’s and Tigers will play a deciding Game 5 at the Coliseum. It will take place Thursday, with game time to be announced.