Tigers stunned as Valverde suffers career low

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Tigers stunned as Valverde suffers career low

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OAKLAND -- Jose Valverde appeared in his 597th career MLB game Wednesday night -- postseason included -- and the charismatic closer turned in an outing he won't ever forget.

Sitting with his head down in front of his locker after his blown saveloss left the Tigers wondering what hit them, Valverde was the recipient of a few knowing pats on the back from manager Jim Leyland before he rose to face the media ... and the music.

"That was the toughest outing of my career," Valverde owned up. His words were quiet, but they were easy to make out in the silent Tigers clubhouse penetrated by the wild cheers of Oakland's sellout crowd lingering in the Coliseum stands above.

Indeed, security guards had to quell boisterous A's fans as they left the prime seats behind home plate and streamed past the Tigers clubhouse shouting.

Valverde was called upon to hammer in the final three nails in the A's 2012 coffin, but Josh Reddick, Josh Donaldson, Seth Smith and two outs later Coco Crisp ensured the 2012 ALDS saw a decisive Game 5 by manufacturing three runs on two singles and two doubles in the bottom of the ninth.

By the time the closer threw his first non-fastball 10 pitches into the ninth inning, the game was tied and the A's had the winning run in scoring position. A steady diet of 90- to 93-mph fastballs was met by Oakland barrels, but Valverde, who throws his fastball 82.4 percent of the time and averages 93.2 miles per hour, wouldn't do anything differently.

"I think my pitches were good," Valverde said. "Maybe one mistake."

His catcher saw things differently.

"He had a really good fastball," Alex Avila said from the opposite end of the Tigers locker room. "A couple leaked over the middle."

Like the ones Donaldson and Smith sprayed to the left- and right-center field gaps for the two biggest hits of the game?

"Those were the key mistakes," Avila confirmed. "Fastballs that leaked out over the plate."

Leyland offered the final word on Valverde's outing: "He probably didn't get the ball located where he wanted to. Tonight he just didn't get the job done."

The one positive the Tigers can fall back on is that they'll have reigning AL Cy Young Award winner and MVP Justin Verlander on the mound in Game 5.

"It definitely gives us a lot of confidence, just 'cause Justin is our guy," Prince Fielder said in a tone that indicated he might be lying. "So we'll see what happens."

Fielder recorded his first hit in 24 Oakland Coliseum at-bats this season, a fourth-inning unrobbable blast to right. It represented the first run of the series knocked in by the heart of the Tigers order. Fielder and Miguel Cabrera, who combined for 74 home runs and 247 RBIs during the regular season, are now 8-for-32 on the series with the lone home run and a Game 2 run scored by Cabrera in terms of production.

"It's tough. We were real close to closing out the series there," starting pitcher Max Scherzer said after doing everything he could to put the Tigers in position to do so. "Credit to their hitters. They have no quit in them.

"We're in a one-game playoff now and anything can happen. This is a hostile place right now."

Scherzer wore the maelstrom of Green and Gold support from the announced sellout crowd of 36,385 like a badge as he carved through the first five innings, striking out eight Athletics along the way.

He stuck around in the dugout waiting for the celebration only to watch his team crumble in the ninth. He had little encouragement to offer his teammates.

"There's not much you can say," Scherzer said, talking specifically about Valverde.

"He's a veteran," Avila said. "He's a professional, he's been through it before."

Except that he hasn't. Not like this, anyway, and admittedly so. Despite faltering on the biggest of stages, the Tigers aren't making any late-inning adjustments.

"He's our guy and that's just the way it is," Leyland said.

There is no escaping the failure the A's forced on Valverde, and the world will be watching and judging the closer's every move to see if he allows doubt to creep into his body language and psyche. With the guidance of his veteran manager, Valverde just might be able to put it behind him. The closer is thankful to have a man like Leyland at the helm, a man who has ushered seven of his 21 MLB squads into the postseason.

"I think everyone should have a manager like Leyland," Valverde said. "I've never played for a manager like this in my life."

A's manager Bob Melvin also played for Leyland, when he was drafted by the Tigers in 1981. Every day Melvin seems more like a lock for the AL Manager of the Year, and he has a chance Thursday to out-coach his former preceptor in a winner-take-all Game 5 at 6 p.m. at the Oakland Coliseum.

Maybe Valverde forgot his three years with the Arizona Diamondbacks from 2005-2007 when he played for Bob Melvin. The Tigers are hoping just as soon he'll forget his 2012 outing on Oct. 10 against Melvin's squad, but you don't easily forget your most trying professional moment.

Instant Replay: Casilla blows save in 10th, Angels walk off in 11th

Instant Replay: Casilla blows save in 10th, Angels walk off in 11th

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ANAHEIM – After the A’s appeared to deal a knockout blow in the 10th inning, the Angels countered and ended up handing the A’s their first walk-off loss of 2017.

Kole Calhoun’s two-out single off Ryan Madson in the 11th scored Danny Espinosa and Los Angeles hung a 2-1 loss on the A’s on Tuesday to open a three-game series at Angel Stadium.

Mike Trout hit a game-tying homer off Santiago Casilla to lead off the bottom of the 10th. That came right after A’s pinch hitter Josh Phegley broke a scoreless tie by hitting the first pitch of the top of the 10th for a homer to right-center off Jose Alvarez.

For two teams who didn’t advance a single runner past first base through the first nine innings, the A’s and Angels packed a lot of excitement into the extra frames.

Phegley delivered the A’s first pinch homer in extras since Chris Carter hit one against Seattle on July 6, 2012. After Trout answered with his homer, Albert Pujols lined a single off Casilla, who came in having allowed opponents just one hit over 23 at-bats this season. Ben Revere pinch-ran for Pujols and stole second, representing the winning run with no outs. But Casilla buckled down and stranded him there to keep it a 1-1 game.

Espinosa led off the bottom of the 11th with a single off Madson, then Martin Maldonado executed a two-strike sacrifice bunt to move him to second. With two outs, Calhoun lined his game-winner to left-center, and Espinosa easily beat Jaff Decker’s throw to the plate.

A’s starter Jesse Hahn was outstanding, facing just two batters over the minimum over eight innings and limiting the Angels to one hit. The only problem was the A’s couldn’t get anything going on their end against right-hander J.C. Ramirez, who threw seven scoreless innings. All told, they struck out 11 times against five Angels pitchers.

Starting pitching report:
Hahn was as dialed in as he’s been wearing an A’s uniform. Manager Bob Melvin talks often of the upside he thinks the right-hander has, and Hahn demonstrated that Tuesday. He coaxed 12 ground-ball outs but also showed a good curve ball and struck out six. Hahn walked two, but after the one single he gave up to Marte in the fifth, he promptly picked Marte off first.

Bullpen report:
Sean Doolittle threw a perfect ninth to send the game into extra innings scoreless, and he struck out Kole Calhoun with two nasty sliders. Looking to protect a 1-0 lead in the 10th, Casilla fell behind Trout 2-0 and Trout sliced a homer to the right field corner that landed just inside the foul pole.

At the plate:
The A’s mustered just five hits total.

Ryon Healy, hitting .524 over his previous seven games entering the night, got a start in the No. 2 spot and struck out swinging four times in five at-bats.

The A’s got the leadoff hitter aboard in four of five innings from the fourth through the eighth but couldn’t cash in. And with the strong-armed Martin Maldonado behind the plate for the Angels, Oakland couldn’t jump-start things on the bases. Jaff Decker was thrown out at second so easily in the fourth that he didn’t even bother to slide, as it appeared either him or Healy missed a sign.

In the field:
In line with how well Hahn was dealing, the A’s defense played stingy. Matt Joyce made a diving catch in right to rob Jefry Marte to lead off the bottom of the eighth. Jed Lowrie made a nice play from the outfield grass to retire Danny Espinosa in the sixth. Credit Hahn for keeping his infielders engaged with so many ground-ball outs.

Attendance:
The announced turnout was 30,124.

Up next:
In the middle contest of this three-game set, Sean Manaea (1-1, 4.43) squares off against Matt Shoemaker (0-1, 4.98) on Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. Shoemaker’s six homers allowed are tied for third most in the American League.

 

A's lineup: Healy batting second, Khris Davis back in vs Angels

A's lineup: Healy batting second, Khris Davis back in vs Angels

PROGRAMMING ALERT: A's-Angels coverage begins at 6pm with Pregame Live on NBC Sports California and streaming right here.

After batting fourth on Sunday, Ryon Healy moves up a couple of spots on the opener against the Angels on Tueday evening.

Oakland A's:
1. Jaff Decker (L) CF
2. Ryon Healy (R) DH
3. Jed Lowrie (S) 2B
4. Khris Davis (R) LF
5. Stephen Vogt (L) C
6. Yonder Alonso (L) 1B
7. Trevor Plouffe (R) 3B
8. Matt Joyce (L) RF
9. Adam Rosales (R) SS
Jesse Hahn -- RHP

Los Angeles Angels:
1. Yunel Escobar (R) 3B
2. Kole Calhoun (L) RF
3. Mike Trout (R) CF
4. Albert Pujols (R) DH
5. Jefry Marte (R) 1B
6. Andrelton Simmons (R) SS
7. Cameron Maybin (R) LF
8. Danny Espinosa (S) 2B
9. Martin Maldonado (R) C
JC Ramirez -- RHP