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Bay Area Baseball Blog: Tigers force decisive fifth game in ALDS, defeat A's 8-6

With Game 4 of the A.L. Division Series tied at 3-3 going into the seventh inning, Tigers manager Jim Leyland summoned a right-hander from the bullpen. As fans around Comerica Park noticed who was jogging in, they stood and waved their white towels wildly. It was Max Scherzer, the 21-game winner and Game 1 starter.

Within three batters, the A's had done what they could not do against Scherzer until the seventh inning of Game 1 -- score -- with Coco Crisp's RBI single giving the A's a 4-3 lead. And after the Tigers took a one-run lead in the bottom of the inning, the A's loaded the bases with nobody out off Scherzer in the eighth, poised to strike again in a game that, if won, would send them to the ALCS.

They still have that chance, but will have to win Game 5 in Oakland to get there. As the crowd grew to a fever pitch, Scherzer escaped the eighth unscored upon, and the A's ultimately fell 8-6 to the Tigers at Comerica Park, forcing a winner-take-all game on Thursday at the Coliseum.

The A's led 3-0 in the fifth and 4-3 in the seventh but could protect neither. After going ahead 5-4 in the bottom of the seventh, the Tigers tacked on three in the eighth against A's relievers Ryan Cook and Brett Anderson. The A's scored twice in the ninth on a two-out single by Yoenis Cespedes, but Tigers closer Joaquin Benoit struck Seth Smith out swinging to seal the win and push the series to the brink.

Even with all those twists, the enduring image from Tuesday night will likely be Scherzer bounding off the mound after the last out in the top of the eighth, it what was then still a 5-4 game, pumping both fists and shouting.

Brandon Moss led off the eighth with a walk, Yoenis Cespedes doubled and the Tigers intentionally walked Seth Smith to load the bases. But Scherzer struck out Josh Reddick and Stephen Vogt -- Reddick swinging on a full-count pitch that would have been ball four -- and got pinch hitter Alberto Callaspo to line out to center field for the final out.

It made a hero of Scherzer, who an inning earlier had looked like he could go down as the game's losing pitcher. Leyland, who had said before the game he would only bring in his ace to protect a late lead, summoned Scherzer for his second relief appearance in the last five seasons to preserve a 3-3 tie.

A's catcher Stephen Vogt led off the seventh with a single off Scherzer, moved to second base on Eric Sogard's sacrifice and scored when Crisp lined a 2-2 pitch up the middle for an RBI single, one of Crisp's four hits in the game.

Melvin turned to the first part of his back-end bullpen trio, left-hander Sean Doolittle, needing nine outs to advance to the ALDS. The first hitter Doolittle faced, designated hitter Victor Martinez, drove an outside fastball the other way for a game-tying homer. It was the first run the A's bullpen had allowed in its last 10 games.

Right fielder Josh Reddick leapt at the wall for the ball and came down appearing to call for fan interference, as did Crisp, who had run over from center. The play, though, was ruled a home run on the field, and umpires upheld the call after a review.

Replays showed a fan had reached over the railing and touched the ball first, but did not clearly show the ball would have landed below the yellow line designating a home run, which is several feet below the top of the railing along Comerica Park's right-field wall.

Jhonny Peralta followed with a double, and after Doolittle struck out Alex Avila and got Omar Infante to fly out, he walked ninth-place hitter Jose Iglesias. That brought up the Tigers' leadoff man Austin Jackson, who had struck out three times in the game and entered the at-bat 1-for-14 in the series with 10 strikeouts.

Jackson fell behind 0-2, fouled a pitch off and then swung at a 96 mph fastball from Doolittle. The pitch broke his bat, but the ball fell into the outfield for a single, scoring pinch runner Andy Dirks from second base for the go-ahead run.

After A's rookie right-hander held Detroit hitless for the first four innings Tuesday, Peralta gave the Tigers' offense their first jolt of life with a three-run homer in the fifth. It was the first home run in eight games for a Detroit lineup that hit 175 of them during the regular season. At that point, Peralta had driven in five of the Tigers' six runs in Games 3 and 4 after not playing at all in the first two games of the series in Oakland.

The A's early offense, meanwhile, came from Jed Lowrie, who entered the game hitless in 12 at-bats in the series with six strikeouts. Lowrie staked the A's to a 3-0 lead with an RBI single in the first inning and a two-run homer in the fifth, both off Tigers right-hander Doug Fister.

Neither starter factored into the decision. Straily responded to Peralta's homer by striking out four of the final seven hitters he faced, including Prince Fielder to end the sixth after Miguel Cabrera had singled with two outs, and finished with eight strikeouts. He needed just 76 pitches to complete his outing, while Fister threw 104 before being pulled in favor of Scherzer after the sixth.

-- Matt Kawahara

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