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So many parts of the A's game that had gone right all season went wrong at the worst times today. You can chalk up today's heartbreaking loss to a dropped fly ball by Coco Crisp and runs off each of the A's 3 "plus relievers". The end result is that the A's need to "run the table" in Oakland or their season will end in the next few days. Tommy Milone did his part, holding the Tigers to 1 run in 6 IP as the A's battled Detroit to a 1-1 tie through 6. Oakland, mostly impotent for 6 innings against Doug Fister, managed one in the 3rd on Yoenis Cespedes' RBI single, but was denied a key second run on Brandon Moss' sharp single to RF when Avasail Garcia's perfect throw nailed Crisp trying to score from 2B. However, almost all the action in this game occurred after the 6th inning and created a see-saw ride in which he who laughed last was going to laugh best. That would be Detroit.
The A's took a 2-1 lead in the 7th when Seth Smith walked, was sacrificed to 2B by George Kottaras, and Cliff Pennington lined an RBI single. That set things up perfectly for Bob Melvin to go to the trio of Sean Doolittle, Ryan Cook, and Grant Balfour.
However, in the bottom of the 7th, after retiring the first two batters Doolittle surrendered singles to Austin Jackson and Omar Infante, forcing him to pitch to Miguel Cabrera. No problem: Doolittle got Cabrera to hit a soft fly ball to CF. Problem: Crisp, coming on to make a basket catch, dropped it. E-8, two runs, 3-2 Tigers.
Undaunted, the A's fought back in the 8th to retake the lead. Cespedes created the tying run all by his lonesome, singling to open the inning, stealing 2B and 3B with one out, and scoring on a wild pitch. Perhaps the run scoring wild pitch relaxed Josh Reddick, whose struggles had persisted today with 3 Ks. Reddick launched a HR into the RF seats to put the A's back in front, 4-3.
Ryan Cook spoiled the broth, however, putting runners at 2B and 3B with only one out. No problem: Cook struck out pinch hitters Quinton Berry and Mike Avila. Problem: While pitching to Avila, Cook uncorked a wild pitch that tied the game 4-4.
The A's had a real shot to take the lead in the top of the 9th. Pennington walked with one out, was forced by Crisp, and then Stephen Drew singled to put runners at 1B and 3B with two outs. The A's had the guy up they wanted: Cespedes. But Cespedes hit a comebacker off of reliever Al Alburquerque and had to ask Grant Balfour to try to hold it in the bottom of the 9th, not save it.
Balfour retired the first batter he faced, Jackson, who was the 27th batter in a row Balfour had retired -- the equivalent of a perfect game. However, Infante then singled, Cabrera singled Infante to 3B, the A's walked Prince Fielder to load the bases, and Don Kelly -- because Omar Infante and Don Kelly really need to give the A's trouble right now -- lifted a walk-off sacrifice fly to put the green and gold in a deep hole.
A week ago, the A's were faced with sweeping Texas in Oakland or no division crown. Now it's sweep the Tigers in Oakland or no ALCS. No problem: That's when the A's are at their best. Problem: There's no margin for error.
Time to root for 9.42477. That's 3 times, pie.