For the first time since Magglio Ordonez homered the Tigers into the World Series in 2006, the Tigers won a playoff game in walk-off fashion Sunday afternoon from Comerica Park.
Batting .186 on the season and at one point designated for assignment, Don Kelly came through with the biggest sac-fly of the year sending the Tigers to 5-4 win and a 2-0 ALDS lead.
In addition to the big sac-fly, Kelly who entered the game as a pinch runner in the 8th for Delmon Young, scored the game tying run on a wild pitch by Ryan Cook.
The move though to enter Kelly in the game was a roll of the dice for Leyland as it placed him behind Prince Fielder who the A’s didn’t hesitate to walk in the bottom of the 9th.
The strategy for Leyland who has often been criticized for his moves during the season paid off.
Tigers starter Doug Fister went seven strong innings allowing two runs on six hits and eight strikeouts. Run support however for the Tigers’ right hander wasn’t initially there as the team was held to just one run over six innings by A’s lefty Tommy Milone.
“Yeah, Tuesday’s going to come and it’s a new day. Anything can happen that day,” said Fister, whose pitching duel with A’s rookie lefty Tommy Milone for six-plus innings became a distant memory by game’s end. “But it’s a matter of we’re feeling good about ourselves. We’ve taken care of business here.”
The A’s got things going during the top half of the third when Yoenis Cespedes’ RBI single gave Oakland a 1-0 lead. However in the ensuing half inning Delmon Young scored Miguel Cabrera to tie the game at one a piece.
Things would remain relatively quiet scoring wise until the seventh when a Cliff Pennington shallow left field RBI single once again put the A’s ahead 2-1.
But the very next inning the Tigers were able to respond.
After an Avisail Garcia strike out and Gerald Laird ground out to start things against Oakland reliever Sean Doolittle, Austin Jackson and Omar Infante followed with back-to-back singles to put runners on first and second with Miguel Cabrera coming to the plate. But during the at-bat, Doolittle was able to get the Triple Crown winner to pop up to center field effectively ending the threat and the inning right?
Centerfielder Coco Crisp attempted his best Willie Mays Hayes impression in the center with a basket catch that he promptly dropped which scored both Jackson and Infante giving the Tigers their first lead of the afternoon 3-2.
The A’s though weren’t going quietly as Cespedes continued to give the Tigers fits in the 8th.
After leading off the inning with a single, Cespedes stole second and third before a Joaquin Benoit wild pitch to Josh Reddick scored the Cuban outfielder to tie the game. And on the very next pitch Reddick was able to turn on it sending the ball to the right field seats to once again give the A’s the lead 4-3.
But as the unlikely hero in Kelly was able to come through in the 9th, was Leyland vindicated in a way after a season chalked full of controversial moves?
Seemingly just about every decision Leyland made in the game came through in some sense or another. Whether it was Avisail Garcia’s big put out on Coco Crisp, Danny Worth’s nice play to begin a double play in the 9th to Kelly’s big sac-fly to win the game, Leyland made the right moves when they really counted. And what happened before really doesn’t matter at this point.
Now the Tigers with firm control of the series head west to Oakland looking to clinch and move onto their second straight ALCS Tuesday night.