OAKLAND, Calif. — After a season filled with dramatic comebacks and memorable endings, the Oakland Athletics now expect the unexpected.
Two runs down and three outs away from their season ending, the A’s staged their most magical finish yet.
Seth Smith hit a game-tying two-run double off closer Jose Valverde in the ninth inning and Coco Crisp capped Oakland’s rally with a two-out RBI single as the A’s staved off elimination for a second straight night with a 4-3 victory over the Detroit Tigers in Game 4 Wednesday night.
“We’ve heard a lot of people say we’re not smart enough to know when to lose a game like most people do,” said Josh Reddick, who started the rally with a single. “We’ve been battling till the 27th out all year and we’re not going to stop now.”
The A’s rode a major league-leading 14 walkoff wins in the regular season to an improbable AL West title. Those paled in comparison to No. 15, which set up a win-or-go-home Game 5 against Justin Verlander and the Tigers.
Reddick led off the ninth 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.
“There’s a confidence,” manager Bob Melvin said. “We’ve done it so many times so there’s always going to be that confidence until we make that last out.”
Two outs later, Crisp lined a single and Smith scored easily when 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 regular occurrence 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.
“It’s amazing,” Crisp said. “The guys in front of me obviously did a fantastic job of getting on base. … This club, we’ve been battling the whole year, giving 100 percent, and these walkoffs have been our MO this year.”
Ryan Cook retired four batters for the win.
The A’s, who have the lowest payroll in baseball, need just one more surprising result to win their second postseason series since 1990. Rookie Jarrod Parker will take the mound in Game 5 tonight against Verlander, the reigning AL Cy Young winner and MVP.
Yankees 3, Orioles 2 (11)
NEW YORK — The highest-paid player in baseball could only sit and watch when Raul Ibanez pinch hit for him and tied the game with a bottom-of-the-ninth home run.
Alex Rodriguez had another good view from the dugout three innings later when Ibanez homered to win it.
Saved by manager Joe Girardi’s gutsy move — and Ibanez’s big swings — the New York Yankees rallied for a stunning 3-2 win in the 12th over the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday night for a 2-1 lead in their best-of-five AL division series.
The slumping Rodriguez, among the greatest power hitters in history, offered no complaint, telling Girardi: “Joe, you gotta do exactly what you gotta do.”
“Maybe 10 years ago I would have reacted in a much different way,” A-Rod said.
Ibanez then stepped up and hit a tying, solo shot to right-center with one out in the ninth off major league saves leader Jim Johnson to make it 2-all.
Yankees fans had been howling this week for Girardi to drop Rodriguez out of the No. 3 spot in the batting order. But Girardi was reluctant to move his fading slugger down in the lineup.
Until he took him all the way out.
“You have to make some decisions sometimes that are tough decisions. I just had a gut feeling,” Girardi said.
Rodriguez has 647 career home runs — he’s chasing the all-time record of 762 by Barry Bonds — and is making $29 million this year. But was just 1 for 12 with no RBIs and seven strikeouts in this series when Girardi pulled him.
“It kind of caught me off-guard, hitting for a guy who’s half-a-billionaire,” Orioles center fielder Adam Jones said.
It was the first time Rodriguez had ever been pinch-hit for in a postseason game, according to STATS LLC.
And it worked.
Ibanez remained in the game and connected on the first pitch from Brian Matusz in the 12th. He became the first player to homer twice in a postseason game in which he didn’t start, STATS said.
Phil Hughes will try to clinch it for the Yankees tonight in Game 4. Joe Saunders will start for Baltimore.
Baltimore had won 16 straight extra-inning games, and had been 76-0 when leading after seven, before the Yankees stung them.