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A's score three in ninth to upend Tigers, force Game 5

The SportsXchange

OAKLAND -- The Comeback Kids did it again Wednesday night.

Down to their final at-bat, the Oakland A's rallied to score three times in the ninth inning to beat the ready-to-celebrate Detroit Tigers 4-3 in Game 4 to force a deciding game in their American League Division Series.

Closer Jose Valverde, the sixth Detroit pitcher, surrendered a first-pitch single to Coco Crisp with two outs in the final inning to score Seth Smith from second base. Smith had doubled in Josh Reddick and Josh Donaldson with no one out.

"It's amazing. The guys in front of me did a fantastic job of getting on base," Crisp said. "They gave me an opportunity to come up there and do something magical.

"Walk-offs have just been our M.O. this year," he added.

The A's recorded 44 comeback wins during the regular season, second most in the league, and enjoyed 14 in the same dramatic walk-off variety as on Wednesday. Clearly, the AL West champs are comfortable in this otherwise tenuous position.

"We've done it too many times down this road not to think we were going to win," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "When we get the first guy on it's 'OK, here we go again.' That's just a very contagious feeling in our dugout. ... We just don't feel like it's going to end for us."

Reddick pulled a two-strike single in the hole between first and second to start it off. Donaldson picked on the first pitch and banged it off the wall in left, a shot that hit halfway up the fence. Smith followed with a gapper to right-center to tie it and send the sellout crowd of 36,385 into a frenzy.

"It was really loud. My ears were hurting a little bit," Smith said.

Valverde retired pinch hitter George Kottaras on a foul fly to third and struck out Cliff Pennington looking before Crisp came through with a hard grounder into right field. Rookie outfielder Avisal Garcia overran the ball but probably wasn't going to have a shot at cutting down the hard-charging Smith at the plate.

"He comes through every time," Smith said of Crisp.

Tigers manager Jim Leyland didn't second-guess his choice of replacing Joaquin Benoit with Valverde to start the fateful final inning.

"He's our guy," Leyland said of his closer. "We worked pretty hard to get to that point, and I thought Benoit got a huge strikeout in the eighth when he struck out (Brandon) Moss. Certainly I feel comfortable with Jose coming in that situation."

Detroit built a 2-0 lead on the strength of a tape-measure home run by Prince Fielder in the fourth and a strong start by hard-throwing right-hander Max Scherzer, who struck out eight and allowed one run on three hits over 5 1/3 innings.

Garcia's pinch single with one out in the eighth gave Detroit a 3-1 lead.

"Obviously, that's a tough one," said Justin Verlander, the Tigers' ace, who will start Game 5. "It's not the first time we've lost like that this year, it's just on a bigger stage. We've been resilient all year and tomorrow is another day."

Verlander is set to oppose Oakland rookie right-hander Jarrod Parker in a rematch of Game 1, a game in Detroit won by the Tigers.

"I'm going to treat it like another start as much as I can," Verlander said. "It's a big game for us. We have put ourselves in a position we just need to win one."

NOTES: Game 4 was Oakland's seventh postseasn walk-off win and its first since Ramon Hernandez's bunt in Game 1 of the 2003 ALCS. ... Miguel Cabrera extended his postseason hitting streak to 15 straight, three short of Detroit's team record. ... Scherzer had allowed two runs or fewer in nine of his 10 outings before Game 4, going 6-1 with a 1.65 ERA over that stretch. ... The A's had won seven of Griffin's eight home starts before Wednesday. This time last year he had just completed pitching in the Class A California League playoffs. ... Super middleweight boxing champion and Oakland native Andre Ward threw out the ceremonial first pitch before Game 4.
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