OAKLAND — Seth Smith, Coco Crisp and the never-say-die Oakland Athletics forced a Game 5 of their AL Division Series against the Detroit Tigers with their most memorable comeback yet.
Smith hit a tying two-run double off Tigers closer Jose Valverde in the ninth inning, and Crisp capped Oakland’s most amazing comeback of the season with a two-out RBI single as the A’s staved off elimination for a second consecutive night with a 4-3 victory in Game 4 Wednesday.
Oakland rode 14 walk-off wins in the regular season to an improbable AL West title. Those previous games paled in comparison to No. 15, which set up a win-or-go-home Game 5 against Justin Verlander and Detroit.
Josh Reddick started the rally with a single just under the glove of diving second baseman Omar Infante. Josh Donaldson followed with a double off the wall in left-center and both runners scored on Smith’s double. Two outs later, Crisp lined a single and Smith scored easily when Tigers right fielder Avisail Garcia couldn’t handle the ball.
That set off a raucous celebration near first base as the A’s poured out of the dugout to mob Crisp, who was the recipient of a whipped cream pie that became a regularity in this remarkable season in Oakland. This marked the second time the A’s erased a two-run deficit in the ninth inning to win a postseason game, the other coming in Game 5 of the 1929 World Series.
Oakland , which has the lowest payroll in baseball, needs just one more surprising result to win its second postseason series since 1990. Rookie Jarrod Parker will take the mound in Game 5 today against Verlander, the reigning AL Cy Young winner and MVP.
The Tigers looked to be in prime position to advance to their second consecutive ALCS and have a rested Verlander for Game 1 when they took a 3-1 lead into the ninth behind a strong start from Max Scherzer and a homer from Prince Fielder.
Now the A’s are one win away from repeating last week’s three-game sweep of Texas that gave them the AL West title on the final day of the regular season. After losing the first two games in Detroit, the A’s won 2-0 in Game 3 and are looking to become the eighth team to rally from two games down to win a best-of-five series.
Scherzer, who was dealing with multiple injuries late in the season, looked in top form against Oakland. He allowed just one baserunner in the first four innings and struck out seven of the first 15 batters before running into his first trouble in the fifth inning.
Smith worked a two-out walk and went to third on Derek Norris’ blooper down the right-field line. Scherzer responded by getting Cliff Pennington to chase an off-speed pitch in the dirt for his eighth strikeout.
The A’s got to Scherzer for an unearned run in the sixth.