Ninth-inning rallies are nothing new to plucky A's
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LAND -- Down two runs going into the bottom of the ninth Wednesday night, their incredible season possibly down to their final three outs, the A's to a man weren't concerned or thinking the worst.
Heck, they had the Tigers right where they wanted them.
The A's made the ninth inning their personal playground so many times during the regular season, and they did it again with a furious rally to overtake the Tigers for a 4-3 victory that sends the American League Division Series to a decisive Game 5 on Thursday.
Down two runs in the ninth? Load up the whipped-cream pies and cue the celebration.
"Obviously we don't ever want to be behind in the ninth, but we definitely feel confident in that situation," said Josh Donaldson, whose double off the left-field wall put the tying run in scoring position. "We've been there so much this year that it's not that strange for us.
"It is a little different situation with the game on the line and the season on the line, but that's just how we've been playing all year. We're not going to stop until they tell us we have to."
Once again, there was no stopping the A's. The team that led the Majors with 14 walk-off wins topped them all with Wednesday's wild one. With Coco Crisp -- author of four of those walk-off wins in the regular season -- delivering a game-winning single, the A's did their thing on the biggest stage of the year.
Walk-off this way
The A's have notched 15 walk-off victories this year.
"We've heard a lot of people say that 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 through the right side of the infield. "We've been battling to the 27th out all year, and we're not going to stop now."
As Tigers closer Jose Valverde warmed up for the ninth, that was the message being conveyed in many ways in the A's dugout.
With his counterpart on the mound, A's closer Grant Balfour was warming up Oakland's hitters in the dugout, imploring them the way only an amped-up Aussie can to get his teammates thinking positive about the task at hand.
"He was hitting me and hugging me and doing all this crazy stuff he usually does," said Reddick. "It was good to watch. He kept telling us, 'We're not going to lose this game. We're not going to lose this game.' "
Reddick took the advice to heart, fouling off a third straight fastball to make it a 1-2 count before sneaking a fourth fastball through into right field, taking first to the delight of the raving crowd.
Next came Donaldson, and he knew he was going to get a fastball, having struck out on three straight Valverde heaters in Detroit. Donaldson didn't wait, smacking the first pitch deep to left-center and off the extended wall for a double, with Reddick holding at third.
"I threw my pitches good. I had a good fastball and they hit it. Nothing you can do," Valverde would say afterward.
Then it was Seth Smith's turn to step up again, like he had the night before with a homer in the Game 3 victory. On a 1-1 fastball, Smith split the gap in right-center field to score Reddick and Donaldson to send the Coliseum into a tizzy.
After the Nos. 8 and 9 hitters were retired by Valverde, Crisp -- the team's leadoff man and veteran outfield presence -- stepped to the plate.
"He's been our walk-off leader all year, so once we got in that situation, I think everybody in the dugout knew he was going to come through for us," Reddick said.
As for Crisp, he needed a deep breath before he felt the same way.
"When I was walking up to the plate, I kind of got emotional and had to calm myself down," Crisp said. "I said, 'This is the moment you've been psyching yourself up for,' and I kind of had to dial it back a bit and refocus on the task at hand."
Sure enough, he did. The team's veteran center fielder turned on a split-finger fastball from Valverde and sent it into right field, where Avisail Garcia couldn't handle the ball -- but it likely didn't matter.
With that, all kinds of green-and-gold bedlam broke loose all over the Coliseum, culminating in a pie in the face and Gatorade shower for Crisp. The A's and their fans know the routine by now, and it never gets old.
All in a matter just a few short minutes, the A's went from two down to falling down all over themselves on the field, celebrating another walk-off.
"We have to keep everybody on edge to pull off something magical," Crisp said.
Yep, had 'em right where they wanted 'em.
"You know what? We've done it too many times down this road to feel like we weren't going to win," manager Bob Melvin said. "And then we get the first guy on and we feel like, 'Here we go again.' That's a contagious feeling in our dugout."