Sunday, October 07, 2012

Don Kelly Walk-Off Appropriate Ending to Bizarre Game

With the Tigers batting in a tie game in the bottom of the ninth, we were all wondering who might be the hero.  Most would have guessed triple crown winner Miguel Cabrera or star center fielder Austin Jackson or slugging first basemanPrince Fielder, but this was one of those crazy games that needed an unexpected ending.  Cabrera certainly contributed to the game winning run with a single moving second baseman Omar Infante (who also singled) to third, but that's not what is going to be remembered from the Tigers 5-4 victory over the Athletics in game two of the divisional series.   

With the bases loaded and one out in the ninth, left-handed hitting Don Kelly (who had pinch run for designated hitter Delmon Young in the eighth) came up to the plate versus Oakland closer Grant Balfour.  Kelly batted just .186/.276/.248 during the regular season, but was added to the post-season roster over Brennan Boesch because Boesch has been struggling mightily most of the season.  Kelly at least has versatility and he is a favorite of manager Jim Leyland.  Given an unexpected chance to contribute in a crucial spot today, Kelly hit a fairly deep flyball to right field for a sacrifice fly scoring Infante for the game winner.

The last three innings were nuts.  The Athletics scored in the top of the seventh on a single by second baseman Cliff Pennington to make 2-1. It was one of only two runs in seven innings off of Tigers starter Doug Fister.

In the bottom of the seventh, Jackson and Infante singled after two were out.  Cabrera followed with what looked like an inning-ending fly ball to shallow center.  Oakland center fielder Coco Crisp  came in, tried to make a basket catch, but juggled it and eventually dropped it allowing two runs making it 3-2 Tigers.  Merry Crispness!

Reliever Joaquin Benoit could not hold the lead however.  Oakland left fielder Yoenis Cespedes led off  the eighth with a single, stole second and third and scored on a wild pitch.  Outfielder Josh Reddick narrowly  missed a game-tying homer off of Benoit last night. Today, he got another chance and hit a go ahead blast.

Now down 4-3, the Tigers got singles from Young and Jhonny Peralta to start off the eighth.  Two outs later, pinch runner Kelly eventually scored on a wild pitch by reliever Ryan Cook.  So, the game was tied going into the ninth.

After three innings of errors, wild pitches, stolen bases and a hundred managerial maneuvers, this silly game needed a whacky finish.  So, it was only appropriate that it would end on a walk-off "hit" by the least likely source on either team.

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