Leading 3-1 in the ninth inning and with closer Jose Valverde coming in, the Detroit Tigers looked well on their way to the American League Championship Series. Instead, they will now face the prospect of winning a deciding Game 5 on the road after Valverde blew the save and Oakland rallied for a 4-3 win.
Valverde got into trouble right away, allowing a leadoff single to Josh Reddick. Josh Donaldson just missed a game-tying home run but settled for a double setting the Athletics up with runners at second and third and no outs. The Athletics wasted little time tying the game as the next batter, Seth Smith, hit a double into right field to tie the game.
Now trying to force extra innings, Valverde was able to get George Kottaras to pop up and struck out Cliff Pennington. Needing just one more out, Coco Crisp grounded the first pitch he saw from Valverde into right field, scoring Smith and giving the Athletics the walk-off victory.
The blown save spoiled a tremendous start from Max Scherzer. Scherzer allowed just one run while striking out eight batters over 5⅓ innings. Detroit got on the board first when Austin Jackson singled home Alex Avila in the third inning. The Tigers added another run in the fourth inning when Prince Fielder launched a home run to right field.
The Athletics cut Detroit's lead in half with a run in the sixth inning, but the Tigers came back with an insurance run in the eighth inning. The Athletics threatened in the eighth inning with runners at first and second, but Joaquin Benoit was able to strike out Brandon Moss to end the threat.
Heading into the ninth inning, it looked like Detroit would be able to setup their rotation for the ALCS, but now Detroit will have to turn to Justin Verlander in Game 5. Verlander pitched seven strong innings in Game 1, and Detroit may need a similar performance in Game 5 if they are going to avoid a 2-0 collapse.
The deciding Game 5 will be played on Thursday in Oakland with first pitch scheduled for 9:37 p.m. ET.