Max Scherzer spent the final weeks of the regular season dealing with injuries, but Jim Leyland has proclaimed that his right-hander is healthy and ready to go.
Scherzer lasted only two innings in his previous matchup with Oakland on Sept. 18 because of fatigue in his right shoulder. He went five innings in a loss to Minnesota five days later, but missed his next scheduled start because of that ailment.
Scherzer also hurt his right ankle while celebrating Detroit's AL Central title on Oct. 1 but managed to pitch four scoreless innings two days later in Kansas City.
"He feels great," Leyland said. "He's very healthy. He's a hundred percent. He threw about 75, 80 pitches over in Kansas City. So we'll monitor him close. But I expect him to be full bore, all out and the game will dictate how long he pitches."
Scherzer has allowed two runs or fewer in nine of his last 10 outings, going 6-1 with a 1.65 ERA over that stretch. He also gave up two runs and five hits while striking out nine over 6 1-3 innings during a 10-6 win in Oakland on May 10.
Entering his fourth postseason start, Scherzer (16-7, 3.74 ERA) finished the regular season with career highs in wins and strikeouts, with his 231 ranking second in the majors to teammate Justin Verlander .
He pitched six scoreless innings during his postseason debut last year in a 5-3 win at Yankee Stadium, but wasn't as sharp in the AL championship series, getting tagged for six runs over 2 1-3 innings in a 15-5 drubbing that gave Texas the pennant in Game 6.
Oakland manager Bob Melvin is hoping rookie right-hander A.J. Griffin can have a similar playoff debut and help the A's force a deciding Game 5. Griffin was taken in the 13th round of the 2010 draft and was pitching in the Class-A California League playoffs last September.
"I just try to go out there and just have fun and be loose, not put too much pressure on yourself," Griffin said. "It's still a game. You go out there and just try to enjoy it."
After losing the first two in Detroit, Oakland limited the Tigers to four hits in a 2-0 victory Tuesday. Yoenis Cespedes had an RBI single in the first inning and Seth Smith added a solo homer in the fifth.
Cespedes was also one of three A's players to rob Detroit slugger Prince Fielder of potential hits, making a diving catch in left in the seventh. Center fielder Coco Crisp took away a home run in the second and shortstop Stephen Drew prevented him from getting a single in the fourth.
"It's frustrating," Fielder said. "But it's a good team you're playing. They're going to make those plays. That's why they're here."
Fielder, who signed a nine-year, $214 million deal before this season, is 1 for 12 in the series but was one of three players to homer off Griffin in a 12-2 rout at Comerica Park on Sept. 18. Miguel Cabrera and Jhonny Peralta were the others.
That loss was the only one in 15 major league starts for Griffin, who was 7-1 with a 3.06 ERA. He gave up five runs and eight hits over 4 2-3 innings in that matchup with the Tigers, part of a mixed showing down the stretch.
Griffin allowed one run and four hits over 5 2-3 innings in an 8-2 win over Seattle on Sept. 28, but his performance last Wednesday created a hurdle for the A's as they completed their rally for the AL West title. He gave up five runs and seven hits in 2 2-3 innings against Texas before Oakland rallied for a 12-5 win and its first division championship in six years.
"What we try to stress with him is focus on the good things that have happened, not the couple of tough starts that (he's) had," Melvin said. "(He's) accomplished a lot up to this point and pitched a lot of really good games and know that your team feels very good about you on the mound."
The A's have won seven of Griffin's eight home starts, and he left in the second inning with an injury in the only one they lost.
|September 28, 2012||Octavio Dotel||Day-to-Day||Left game - sore right biceps|
|September 27, 2012||Max Scherzer||Day-to-Day||Right deltoid strain|
|September 18, 2012||Max Scherzer||Day-to-Day||Left game - right shoulder fatigue|
|September 16, 2012||Austin Jackson||Day-to-Day||Sore left ankle|
|September 11, 2012||Ryan Raburn||15-Day DL||Strained right quadriceps|
|August 23, 2012||Doug Fister||Day-to-Day||Tightness in right groin|
|September 25, 2012||Coco Crisp||Day-to-Day||Eye infections|
|September 19, 2012||Brett Anderson||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained right oblique|
|September 05, 2012||Brandon McCarthy||Day-to-Day||Left game - head injury|
|September 02, 2012||Brandon Inge||Day-to-Day||Dislocated right shoulder|
|September 02, 2012||Brandon Inge||60-Day DL||Strained right shoulder|
|August 18, 2012||Jordan Norberto||15-Day DL||Left shoulder tendinitis|
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- After a season filled with dramatic comebacks and memorable endings, the Oakland Athletics now expect the unexpected.
Two runs down and three outs away from their season ending, the A's staged their most magical finish yet.
Seth Smith hit a game-tying two-run double off closer Jose Valverde in the ninth inning and Coco Crisp capped Oakland's rally with a two-out RBI single as the A's staved off elimination for a second straight night with a 4-3 victory over the Detroit Tigers in Game 4 Wednesday night.
"We've heard a lot of people say we're not smart enough to know when to lose a game like most people do," said Josh Reddick , who started the rally with a single. "We've been battling till the 27th out all year and we're not going to stop now."
The A's rode a major league-leading 14 walkoff wins in the regular season to an improbable AL West title. Those paled in comparison to No. 15, which set up a win-or-go-home Game 5 against Justin Verlander and the Tigers.
Reddick led off the ninth with a single just under the glove of diving second baseman Omar Infante . Josh Donaldson followed with a double off the wall in left-center and both runners scored on Smith's double.
"There's a confidence," manager Bob Melvin said. "We've done it so many times so there's always going to be that confidence until we make that last out."
Two outs later, Crisp lined a single and Smith scored easily when right fielder Avisail Garcia couldn't handle the ball.
That set off a raucous celebration near first base as the A's poured out of the dugout to mob Crisp, who was the recipient of a whipped cream pie that became a regular occurrence in this remarkable season in Oakland. This marked the second time the A's erased a two-run deficit in the ninth inning to win a postseason game, the other coming in Game 5 of the 1929 World Series.
"It's amazing," Crisp said. "The guys in front of me obviously did a fantastic job of getting on base. ... This club, we've been battling the whole year, giving 100 percent, and these walkoffs have been our MO this year."
Ryan Cook retired four batters for the win.
The A's, who have the lowest payroll in baseball, need just one more surprising result to win their second postseason series since 1990. Rookie Jarrod Parker will take the mound in Game 5 on Thursday night against Verlander, the reigning AL Cy Young winner and MVP.
"That's why this is the greatest game of all," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "It looked like we were going to get it. We didn't do it. We didn't quite get the 27 outs, that's part of the game. You get tested all the time in this game. And this is a good test."
The Tigers looked to be in prime position to advance to their second straight ALCS and have a rested Verlander for Game 1 when they took a 3-1 lead into the ninth behind a strong start from Max Scherzer and a homer from Prince Fielder .
Now the A's are one win away from repeating last week's three-game sweep of Texas that gave them the AL West title on the final day of the regular season. After losing the first two games in Detroit, the A's won 2-0 in Game 3 and are looking to become the eighth team to rally from two games down to win a best-of-five series.
The San Francisco Giants will have a shot to do it as well earlier Thursday when they face Cincinnati in Game 5 of their NL division series.
Scherzer, who was dealing with shoulder, deltoid and ankle injuries late in the season, looked in top form against the A's. He allowed just one baserunner in the first four innings and struck out seven of the first 15 batters before running into his first trouble in the fifth.
Smith worked a two-out walk and went to third on Derek Norris ' opposite-field blooper down the right-field line. But Scherzer responded by getting Cliff Pennington to chase an offspeed pitch in the dirt for his eighth strikeout.
The A's finally got to Scherzer for an unearned run in the sixth. Crisp reached when Fielder misplayed a hard grounder to first base into a two-base error. Crisp advanced on a wild pitch and scored on Stephen Drew 's double to right-center. But the A's ran themselves out of a potential big inning when third-base coach Mike Gallego waved Drew around to third, where he was easily caught on the relay for the first out.
Octavio Dotel and Phil Coke both retired a batter to get out of the sixth and Al Alburquerque pitched a perfect seventh in his first appearance since his memorable kiss of the baseball on a comebacker by Yoenis Cespedes in Game 2. Joaquin Benoit escaped a first-and-second jam in the eighth by striking out Brandon Moss , but Valverde couldn't close it.
"This is the toughest moment in my whole career," Valverde said. "I had everything. These guys hit it. There's nothing I can do."
NOTES: This is the seventh postseason walkoff win for the A's in franchise history and first since Ramon Hernandez won it with a squeeze bunt in the 2003 division series against Boston. ... A.J. Griffin allowed two runs in 5-plus innings. He was the third Oakland rookie pitcher to start a game this series, the most ever by a team in a single postseason. The A's used just two rookie starting pitchers in 147 postseason games before this year:: Joe Bush in the 1913 World Series and Barry Zito in the 2000 division series. ... Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera has not driven in a run in the series. ... Reddick has struck out eight times in the four games, setting an Oakland record for most in a postseason series.