Oakland, CA – The Detroit Tigers were three outs away from heading back to the American League Championship Series.
Instead they're going to have to return to the Oakland Coliseum for a decisive Game 5 after the Athletics manufactured a dramatic ninth-inning rally.
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 past the Tigers, 4-3.
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 center field.
"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. And their latest triumph sets up a winner-take-all contest on Thursday.
Oakland is trying to place itself amongst a select few. Only four teams have battled back from an 0-2 deficit to advance since Division Series play began in 1995.
The Tigers cashed in a leadoff double by Alex Avila in the third. Oakland starting pitcher A.J. Griffin didn't get the call from plate umpire Eric Cooper on a 1-2 pitch down and in to the Detroit catcher. Avila hammered the next pitch, a hanging curveball, into the right-field corner and advanced on Infante's sacrifice bunt before Austin Jackson singled him home.
Prince Fielder led off the fourth by crushing a no-doubter to the seats in right-center. Delmon Young and Andy Dirks followed with back-to-back singles, but Griffin got Jhonny Peralta to ground into a double play and retired Avila on a fly ball to keep it a 2-0 game.
Detroit's Max Scherzer, meanwhile, was cruising on the mound, retiring 12 A's in a row before Smith worked a two-out walk in the fifth. Smith moved to third on a base hit by Derek Norris, but Scherzer fanned Cliff Pennington to end the inning.
The A's capitalized on a defensive miscue in the sixth, and Stephen Drew's RBI double put them on the board. The frame began with Crisp reaching second base on an error by Fielder at first. Crisp, who saw 10 pitches during his at-bat, slapped a grounder that glanced off Fielder's glove and rolled into the spacious foul territory.
Drew made a poor base running decision after sending Scherzer's offering to center and was gunned down at third base for the first out.
Detroit extended its lead in the eighth. Infante singled against Sean Doolittle to start the inning and moved up on Jackson's sac bunt before a pinch-hitting Garcia knocked him in with a base hit to right. Fielder singled with two outs, but Ryan Cook (1-0) retired Young on a 4-3 grounder.
The only other time the Athletics won back-to-back elimination games was in the 1973 World Series against the New York Mets ... Griffin gave up two runs and seven hits in five-plus innings. He became the third rookie A's pitcher to start a game in this series after Jarrod Parker and Tommy Milone, the first time it has happened in major league history in a single postseason ... Third baseman Miguel Cabrera went 1-for-4 and has now reached base safely in each of his 15 postseason games with the Tigers. It's the third-longest streak in club history, trailing Hank Greenberg (18) and Charlie Gehringer (16) ... Scherzer limited the A's to three hits, walked one and struck out eight in 5 1/3 innings.