Bats Come Alive, Tigers Force a Deciding Game 5

Jhonny and VMart come up big in elimination game.

Jhonny and VMart come up big in elimination game.

It was starting to look like it was going to be more of the same as rookie Dan Straily carried a no hitter into the fifth inning. The Tigers appeared as if they hadn’t been able to pick up on Straily’s low-90s fastball, though shadows early in the game might have had something to do with it. (Austin Jackson also called it a “sneaky fastball.”) Either way, it wasn’t looking good, with Oakland holding a 3-0 lead heading into the fifth.

It all turned on a bloop single to shallow left by none other than… Prince Fielder?

Read on to find out how this one ended (if you happened to ignore the title)!

After Fielder singled to break up the no hitter, Victor Martinez followed up with one of his three hits on the night, a single to shallow right to advance Fielder to second.

Jhonny Peralta, who was in this game for his bat, followed up with a homer to deep left, just beyond Yoenis Céspedes’ reach. The Tigers tied Oakland at 3, and though the inning quickly fizzled after the Peralta homer, it looked like the Tigers had grabbed momentum back from the A’s.

Doug Fister, the game 4 starter, had struggled early in the game, hitting the 60 pitch mark in the third inning, but followed up the Tigers’ offensive outburst with a 1-2-3 shutdown inning.

After a relatively quiet seventh, the Tigers brought game 1 starter Max Scherzer into the game. Scherzer was unable to hold the lead, giving up a run, and it was on to the bottom of the seventh.

Martinez led off the seventh with a solo homer off reliever Sean Doolittle that was reviewed as possible fan interference. Replays seemed to indicate outfielder Josh Reddick wouldn’t have been able to catch the ball, and after a review, crew chief Gary Darling signaled for a homerun. Reddick argued after the game that he could have caught the ball, but Darling disagreed, saying “it was clear he was not going to catch the ball.” Whatever the case, it was a crucial point in the game.

After the Martinez homer, Doolittle gave up a double to Peralta, but struck out Alex Avila and got Omar Infante to line out. Austin Jackson came up with a chance to redeem himself after having struck out three times already. Jackson dropped in a broken bat single in shallow right, to score Andy Dirks and give the Tigers their first lead of the series since game 1, at 5-4. Doolittle was relieved in favor of Dan Otero and Torii Hunter struck out, but the damage had been done.

Scherzer came back out for the eighth inning and walked the leadoff hitter, Brandon Moss, gave up a double to Céspedes, and was asked to intentionally walk the red-hot Seth Smith. On average, a bases loaded, nobody out situation produces at least two runs, so Scherzer faced a steep uphill battle Reddick struck out on a full count after giving Scherzer a fight (while swinging at ball four), and Stephen Vogt, the game 2 hero, also struck out. Oakland’s manager, Bob Melvin, then pinch hit for second baseman Eric Sogard with Alberto Callaspo. Callaspo hit a sharp liner to left center that Jackson was able to run down, to preserve the Tigers’ slim 5-4 lead.

In the eighth, the Tigers jumped on reliever Ryan Cook to extend their lead to 8-4, and then turned the game over to Joaquín Benoit in the ninth. Benoit had a somewhat rocky ninth, but was able to preserve the eventual 8-6 victory to force a game 5 in Oakland on Thursday night.

And all of Tigers fandom collectively exhaled.

For at least one night.

News and Notes

  • Jackson on the Callaspo lineout he caught to end the A’s threat in the eighth: “I thought it might be the first time I would have to dive this year.” (h/t Jeff Riger)
  • Via ESPNStatsInfo, Scherzer faced 14 hitters with bases loaded in 2013 and only Eric Hosmer produced a run in any way, with a bases-loaded walk.
  • Also via ESPNStatsInfo, opponents are now 0-for-13 with seven strikeouts with the bases loaded against Scherzer in 2013.
  • Jackson credited his teammates for keeping him from getting down after his struggles at the plate, and Hunter and Peralta told him “You’re going to get a big hit.”
  • Verlander went to pitching coach Jeff Jones before the game and told him he would be available out of the ‘pen for game 4. He had thrown 117 pitches in game 2. Verlander will now start game 5 on Thursday on normal rest.
  • According to Brooks Baseball here, Scherzer topped out at 99.7mph and averaged 96mph in his relief appearance. 61.5% of Scherzer’s fastballs were SNIPs (strikes not in play).
  • Fister struggled early, leaving balls up in the zone, but settled down enough to give the Tigers a quality start before turning the game over to Scherzer in the seventh.
  • Miguel Cabrera singled in the sixth, and has now reached base in an MLB-record 28 consecutive postseason games.
  • Of Jackson’s ten strikeouts, nine have led off an inning. One was a strike-him-out-throw-him-out to end an inning. (h/t Matthew Mowery)
  • Dating back to the 1990 World Series, the Oakland A’s are now 1-11 in elimination games.

    The Tigers will send Justin Verlander to the mound in the winner-take-all game 5. Oakland’s manager, Bob Melvin, has yet to pick a starter, though it seems likely that it will be game 2 starter, Sonny Gray. The game is currently expected to start at 9pm EDT.

    Tigers win!

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