The A’s have shown a great ability this season to wash off a bad day and not let it carry into the next one. Tuesday shouldn’t have been a bad day, and now the A’s season hinges on whether they can develop a case of amnesia regarding an 8-6 loss to the Detroit Tigers in Game 4 of the American League Division Series.
Their night went haywire in so many different ways, shocking considering how smoothly it was rolling along for half the game. But Jhonny Peralta’s three-run homer off Dan Straily wiped out a 3-0 lead. Victor Martinez’s controversial homer off reliever Sean Doolittle erased another Oakland advantage.
Watching a bases-loaded, no-out opportunity go to waste in the top of the eighth had to be the most tortuous sequence for A’s fans to stomach this season. And the crowning meltdown: Ryan Cook and Brett Anderson teaming up to surrender three runs in an ugly bottom of the eighth – runs that proved crucial to the final outcome.
By the time they wake up Wednesday morning, right fielder Josh Reddick said he and his teammates better have turned the page. A deciding Game 5 awaits Thursday night at the Coliseum, with Justin Verlander taking the hill for Detroit against a still-to-be-determined A’s starter.
“Once tonight’s over and we all go to bed, it’s gotta be done,” Reddick said after the game. “You can’t dwell on it going into tomorrow or Thursday. We do that, it’s just gonna expand in our minds and be even worse and worse.”
By the time A’s manager Bob Melvin meets with the media Wednesday afternoon, a decision likely will have been made on Thursday’s starter. Game 1 starter Bartolo Colon is on turn to pitch, but the fact Melvin said after Game 4 that he was undecided on the Game 5 starter makes it clear that the A’s will at least consider rookie Sonny Gray.
Colon is the veteran who won 18 games this season and posted the second-lowest ERA (2.65) in the American League. He gave up three first-inning runs in Game 1 but was nails over the next five innings of an eventual 3-2 loss. Gray still has the good vibes of his electrifying Game 2 performance at the Coliseum, when he matched Verlander pitch for pitch and fired eight shutout innings at Detroit.
Also worth considering: Colon is 8-10 with a 5.40 ERA over 27 career appearances (26 starts) in the regular season against Detroit. His career ERA is significantly better against both Boston (3.78) and Tampa Bay (4.00), making him an attractive Game 1 option against either one of those clubs should the A’s advance to the AL Championship Series.
First, the A’s have to win Thursday, and it’s possible whichever of the two pitchers doesn’t draw the start will be used in relief. Had the A’s finished the job Tuesday, they’d be setting their ALCS rotation right now. They built a 3-0 lead on the strength of Jed Lowrie’s RBI single and two-run homer in the fifth inning off Doug Fister. But Straily surrendered Peralta’s three-run blast on a 2-2 fastball that he piped.
Yet that’s not what people will remember. They’ll talk about Martinez’s tying homer in the seventh that went to a video review after a fan in right field touched the ball and perhaps interfered with Reddick’s leaping attempt at a catch. The umpires upheld the homer. “It was clear he was not going to catch the ball, so it was clearly going to be a home run," crew chief Gary Darling said. "There wasn't any other evidence on replay to turn it another way."
Reddick was adamant he would have caught the ball. “One hundred percent,” he said. “I looked at it on replay, and I had no doubt before I even looked that it was going in my glove.”
But Reddick also was a key figure in a bases-loaded opportunity with no outs in the eighth, when the A’s came up empty against Max Scherzer and failed to erase a 5-4 deficit. Reddick swung at a full-count breaking ball clearly out of the strike zone. The low and inside pitch would have forced in the tying run.
“He gave me seven straight fastballs at 96, 97 miles per hour,” Reddick said. “(Then) he made a great pitch and I should have taken it.” Stephen Vogt swung through a 98 mile-per-hour fastball for the second out and pinch hitter Alberto Callaspo lined out to center. Scherzer, a 21-game winner in the regular season, was out of his element in relief, but Vogt said he rose to the occasion with his back against the wall. “You could see his demeanor as soon as the bases were loaded. He got better,” Vogt said. “He got back on the mound with more conviction.”
The list of what went wrong for the A’s on Tuesday is long. All they can do is point forward to Thursday as they try to solve the riddle of Verlander, whose 22-inning postseason scoreless streak against Oakland is tied for fourth-longest in history, according to Elias. “Our season’s gonna come down to that game,” Straily said. “There’s no quit in this team. Everybody will be ready to go.”
- Joe Stiglich, CSN Bay Area