Tigers 5, Athletics 4

Tigers exploit sloppy Athletics

Detroit walks off on Kelly’s heroics

Don Kelly scored the tying run and hit the winning sacrifice fly after being a pinch runner.
Leon Halip/Getty Images
Don Kelly scored the tying run and hit the winning sacrifice fly after being a pinch runner.

DETROIT — Al Alburquerque reached out and snagged a sharp grounder to the mound — then planted a little kiss on the ball before tossing it to first.

The relieved reliever gave his Detroit teammates a reason to laugh in the ninth inning of a tight game. Moments later, the Tigers were celebrating.

Don Kelly scored the tying run on a wild pitch in the eighth, then hit a bases-loaded sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth that lifted the Tigers over the Oakland Athletics, 5-4, Sunday for a 2-0 lead in their AL division series.


Detroit overcame three A’s leads and seesawed to victory. It was 1-all before a wild final three innings that included a key error by Oakland center fielder Coco Crisp, two game-tying wild pitches, and several momentum changes.

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Alburquerque kept it tied in the ninth when he got Yoenis Cespedes to hit a comebacker with men on first and third and two outs. He gave the ball a quick smooch before throwing underhand to first.

‘‘I just did it,’’ he said. ‘‘It was the emotion of the game. I wasn’t trying to be a hot dog.’’

Oakland outfielder Josh Reddick wasn’t thrilled.

‘‘We didn’t appreciate that. I thought it was immature and not very professional,’’ Reddick said. ‘‘You don’t do that on the field. Save it for the dugout. That’s all I’m going to say.’’


Detroit will go for a sweep of the division series matchup in Game 3 on Tuesday at Oakland.

Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera doubled twice for the Tigers, hit a fly ball that Crisp dropped for two runs, and later singled in the ninth.

It was the sixth straight postseason loss for the A’s, all to Detroit. The Tigers swept Oakland in the 2006 ALCS, winning the series on Magglio Ordonez’s homer in Game 4 — Detroit’s last walkoff win in the playoffs before Sunday.

Omar Infante and Cabrera hit back-to-back singles off Grant Balfour with one out in the ninth. With runners on first and third, Prince Fielder was intentionally walked, bringing up Kelly, who had stayed in the game as the designated hitter after pinch-running the previous inning.

‘‘Was looking for a fastball and I got it,’’ Kelly said. ‘‘It’s a great feeling, to be able to go out there in that situation and do that.’’


Kelly’s fly to right was plenty deep enough to score Infante without a play at the plate. It was another big playoff moment for Kelly, who hit a home run last year when the Tigers beat the New York Yankees in the decisive fifth game of the division series.

A favorite of manager Jim Leyland, Kelly hit .186 during the regular season but made the postseason roster as a pinch-running option who can also play any position in the field.

‘‘It takes everybody to contribute and we got contributions from everybody,’’ Leyland said.

Alburquerque missed most of the season after offseason surgery on his throwing elbow. He came on to face Cespedes with the Tigers in a jam, and that one out was enough to earn him the win.

And the righthander entertained his teammates in the process with a bit of, um, comic relief.

‘‘We were cracking up in the dugout,’’ Detroit pitcher Max Scherzer said. ‘‘We were like, ‘Did he really just kiss the ball?’ . . . Alburquerque does some crazy things on the mound.’’

It was tied at 4 after both teams made their share of mistakes in the seventh and eighth. Cliff Pennington gave the A’s the lead with an RBI single in the seventh, but Crisp dropped Cabrera’s two-out flyball in the bottom half, allowing two runs to score.

Oakland tied it in the eighth on a wild pitch by Joaquin Benoit, and Reddick followed with a solo homer to give the A’s a 4-3 lead. Then it was Ryan Cook’s turn to throw a tying wild pitch, allowing Kelly to score.

Pennington nearly came through for Oakland in the ninth, but his deep drive down the left-field line was just foul.

On a drizzly day at Comerica Park, the Tigers and A’s were sloppy late.

With runners on first and second and two out in the seventh, Cabrera lifted a fly to center. Crisp, charging hard, tried to make a basket catch but bobbled the ball. He nearly recovered to make a falling grab, but the ball popped out of his glove and the Tigers took a 3-2 lead.

‘‘I saw it come off the heel of my glove, and I tried to grab again,’’ Crisp said. ‘‘I even went for it barehanded, but I couldn’t get it.’’

Cespedes led off the eighth with a single and stole second and third. With one out and the infield in, Benoit threw a wild pitch to allow the tying run, before Reddick’s homer.

But, as has been the case all series, Oakland couldn’t hold on to the lead.