(Sports Network) - The never-say-die Oakland Athletics try to become the
fifth team to rally from an 0-2 hole and win a best-of-five American League
Division Series on Thursday when they play a decisive fifth game against the
Detroit Tigers at the Coliseum.
Oakland kept its season alive on Wednesday with a thrilling win, as Seth Smith
tied the game with a two-run double and scored the winning run on Coco Crisp's
two-out single, lifting the A's to a 4-3 triumph.
Jose Valverde (0-1) faltered when asked to deliver a knockout blow, giving up
three consecutive hits to begin the ninth. Josh Reddick singled and Josh
Donaldson doubled before Smith brought both men home with his line drive to
"He probably didn't get the ball located where he wanted to," Detroit manager
Jim Leyland said of Valverde. "The first hit was just out of the reach of
(second baseman) Omar (Infante). They banged a couple after that obviously."
Valverde retired the next two batters, but Crisp grounded the first pitch he
saw to right. Smith hustled around third and scored without a throw because
Avisail Garcia couldn't field the ball cleanly.
"There are guys we feel good about, but I don't think there's anybody we feel
better about in that situation than Coco," said Oakland manager Bob Melvin.
The A's are no strangers to thrilling finishes. After all, they paced the
majors with 14 walk-off wins during the regular season. They have also won
eight in a row at home.
Should they win on Thursday, the A's would join the Seattle Mariners (1995),
the Boston Red Sox (1999, 2003) and the New York Yankees (2001) to rally from
such a deficit. They could also join the San Francisco Giants, who have also
rallied from two down to force a Game 5, which will be played earlier in the
day on Thursday.
Oakland, which hasn't advanced to the ALCS since losing to Detroit in 2006,
was on the wrong end of an 0-2 comeback to the Yankees 11 years ago.
The odds are certainly not in the A's favor on Thursday, as they go up against
perhaps the best pitcher in the American League in righty Justin Verlander,
who was terrific in his Game 1 win. Verlander surrendered just an unearned run
and three hits in that one and struck out 11 in seven innings of work.
"I'm going to try to treat it like just another start, kind of like the last
start, as much as I can," said Verlander, who was 17-8 this past year with a
2.64 ERA and a league-best 239 strikeouts. "Obviously, it's a big game for us.
This team has been resilient and we allowed ourselves to be in this position.
"We won the first two games at home. You know it's not easy to play here. We
put ourselves in position where we need to win just one. Whatever game that is
it doesn't matter. So hopefully it's the fifth one."
Verlander has allowed just three earned runs over his last 35 innings,
spanning five starts.
"Obviously, it's win or go home," Verlander said. "But I'm not going to try to
do anything more than I've done all year."
Oakland, meanwhile, will turn to rookie Jarrod Parker, who was outdueled by
Verlander in Saturday's Game 1. Parker gave up three runs (2 earned) and seven
hits in 6 1/3 innings and was charged with the loss in his first-ever
"I think any time you get experience your first time in the postseason, now
all of a sudden the next time out you know what to expect and know you can
handle it," Melvin said. "His season as a whole, you've seen him get better
and better and better and handle some things. Whether it's getting a few guys
on base and getting his pitch count up earlier in games, being able to combat
that and work past that, you know, as the season goes along, he's just gotten
better and better."
Parker was 13-8 on the year with a 3.47 ERA.
"One thing we're doing really well right now is preparing each and every day
like it's our last, just taking it one at a time," Parker said.
There have been 30 decisive Game 5s and home teams have gone 15-15 in those
contests. Also, road teams are 10-7 in Division Series Game 5s (both leagues
combined) since baseball went to the eight-team playoff format in 1995.
Of the last 11 opening-round series to go to a Game 5, the home team has won
only two of those contests
Detroit, which is aiming for its second straight trip to the ALCS, won four of
its seven regular season matchups with the A's, most recently taking two of
three from them in mid-September, and outscored them 18-4 in winning the first
These teams have met twice in the postseason. In addition to the 2006 series,
the A's beat the Tigers in five games of the 1972 ALCS which started a run of
three consecutive world titles.
The Sports Network