A's lose grip on Tigers; ALDS heads to Game 5

A's lose grip on Tigers; ALDS heads to Game 5

A's lose grip on Tigers; ALDS heads to Game 5

DETROIT -- The A's are headed back to Oakland, and so are the Tigers.

This wasn't what the A's had in mind, but their plans of flying solo back to the Bay to gear up for the American League Championship Series went by the wayside at Comerica Park on Tuesday.

Unable to maintain two leads in a potential series-clinching game, the A's dropped a Game 4 nail-biter, 8-6, after the bullpen gave up its first runs of the series and the offense missed out on too many opportunities, keeping this best-of-five American League Division Series alive.

Since the 1990 World Series, the A's are 1-11 in potential clinch games, a trend they still have a chance to buck.

"It's a lost opportunity to win today, but it's not a lost opportunity to win the entire series," said Coco Crisp, who did his part with a four-hit performance. "We still have another game, and we get to play in front of our fans."

The teams will fly back to Oakland overnight and play the deciding Game 5 on Thursday, airing at 5 p.m. PT on TBS.

In a scene eerily similar to last year's Game 5 between these two teams, the Tigers will send Justin Verlander to the mound in hopes of another triumphant ending. The A's, meanwhile, have less than 48 hours to mull over whether veteran Bartolo Colon or rookie Sonny Gray, who pitched a gem in Game 2 vs. Verlander, is best suited to change their fortune.

"We can't be thinking anything other than it's going to be fun to play a Game 5 against Justin Verlander," said Stephen Vogt. "Obviously Bartolo is our leader on our staff, and Sonny threw pretty well in Game 2. We feel good about both those guys available."

Vogt played a part in a deflating eighth inning. It had the makings to be a game-changer -- and it was. Just not in the A's favor. For as many missed chances that came and went, this was their greatest.

Redemption was in play with Max Scherzer on the mound, the right-hander who handcuffed the A's in Game 1. Pitching out of relief, Scherzer quickly loaded the bases with no out and a 5-4 Tigers lead in tow, as Josh Reddick stepped to the plate.

Not far removed from watching Victor Martinez's game-tying leadoff home run in Detroit's two-run seventh against Sean Doolittle, which Reddick believed he could have caught if not for fan interference, Oakland's right fielder found himself staring down a prime moment to get back the run. He forced Scherzer into a full count, one ball away from walking in the tying run. Reddick got the ball, an inner changeup nowhere near the zone, and swung through it.

One down.

"He threw me seven straight fastballs at 96, 97 mph, so it was kind of hard to get off a pitch like that, even though his changeup is as good as it is," said Reddick. "He made a great pitch, and I swung at a ball out of the zone."

Vogt had no better luck, fouling off three straight pitches before swinging through the fourth.

Two down.

Pinch-hitter Alberto Callaspo also reached a full count against Scherzer, before doing what Reddick and Vogt couldn't. He put the ball in play, a line drive that nearly found its way in the left-center-field gap. Austin Jackson snatched it up.

Inning over.

"Clearly he was tough," said Vogt. "We got bases-loaded-and-nobody-out situation, exactly where we want to be, and we just didn't come through, myself included. He gave me pitches to hit in that at-bat and we gotta put a ball in play. We just weren't able to get it done."

The Tigers added on in the eighth with a three-spot for a four-run lead, which turned out to be significant when the A's responded with two runs in the ninth thanks to a two-run single off the bat of Yoenis Cespedes against closer Joaquin Benoit.

Hours earlier, it was the A's who looked to have a strong grasp on what turned into a roller-coaster affair, getting a run off starter Doug Fister in the first by way of an RBI single from Jed Lowrie and forcing the right-hander to throw 50 pitches through two innings.

All the while, righty Dan Straily put together four no-hit innings, allowing Oakland to add on in the fifth by way of a two-run homer from Lowrie, who was hitless in 18 postseason at-bats entering the game.

But Straily's no-hitter was put to rest when Prince Fielder led off the fifth with a bloop single to left, and not long after so was his lead. Martinez's ensuing base hit put two on for Jhonny Peralta, who tied the game with a three-run homer.

It was the first home run of the series for the Tigers, who would rely on the long ball again in the seventh, Martinez's questionable homer, to erase another deficit.

"We missed some opportunities offensively, we missed some opportunities to pitch out of situations," said Josh Donaldson. "We're going to come out Thursday and win."

"Obviously we know what we have ahead of us in Game 5, but that also means we have one more game," said Vogt. "We're not done. It's one of those things, we would've loved to close it out tonight, but we're going to keep our head up and be ready to play Thursday."

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Major Lee-ague, and follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.