Crisp caps A's 15th walk-off victory of 2012
Oakland club no longer surprised by late-inning magic
OAKLAND -- Reliever Ryan Cook, the last pitcher on the mound for the A's in Game 4 of the American League Division Series on Wednesday night, said it best.
"You can kind of feel it," Cook said. "You just feel it boil and fester inside, and you hope and pray that it all unfolds the way you want it to, you know?"
Yeah, we know. Anyone who's been watching the Oakland Athletics this year knows.
The intestinal buildup Cook described could be properly diagnosed as walkoffitis, or the searing, intense internal expectancy that soon there will be a pile of A's players celebrating somewhere on the Coliseum field, that shaving cream will be applied to the designated hero's face, and that the fans in the seats will be rocking and shaking their heads, wondering how on earth this team pulled this off again.
It had happened a Major League-leading 14 times during the course of a season that brought the A's an unlikely 45 come-from-behind wins and an AL West division title, and No. 15 couldn't have come at a better time.
Oakland was down, 3-1, in the ninth inning, facing elimination, and going up against Tigers closer Jose Valverde, who was 49-for-49 in save opportunities a year ago.
Walk-off this way
|Oct. 10||Tigers||4-3||Crisp single|
|Sept. 29||Mariners||7-4||Moss homer|
|Aug. 3||Jays||5-4||Crisp sac fly|
|July 30||Rays||4-3||Weeks sac fly|
|July 22||Yankees||5-4||Crisp single|
|July 20||Yankees||3-2||Moss single|
|July 18||Rangers||4-3||Hicks homer|
|July 8||Mariners||2-1||Reddick double|
|July 6||Mariners||4-1||Carter homer|
|July 3||Red Sox||3-2||Crisp sac fly|
|June 24||Giants||4-2||Norris homer|
|June 21||Dodgers||4-1||Cespedes homer|
|May 8||Jays||7-3||Inge slam|
|April 25||White Sox||5-4||Ka'aihue single|
|April 11||Royals||5-4||Gomes HBP|
But after Josh Reddick singled, Josh Donaldson doubled, Seth Smith doubled in two runs and Coco Crisp singled home Smith with the game-winner, tying the series at 2-2 and setting up Thursday night's must-win game for a trip to the AL Championship Series, it felt like things were back to normal for a club that seems to prefer to win this way.
"I guess to say the 'Oakland magic,' our mentality is just that, you know ... I don't really know how to describe the 'magic' word," Crisp said. "But when you go out there and give it your all, more times than not, good results will happen."
Wednesday also marked Oakland's first postseason walk-off hit since Ramon Hernandez laid down a bases-loaded squeeze bunt in the bottom of the 12th inning against Boston in Game 1 of the 2003 AL Division Series.
In other words, something special is going on here in 2012, and Crisp is usually in the thick of it. Wednesday's game-winner was his fourth such hit this year after producing two walk-off hits in his previous 10 seasons in the Major Leagues.
"Well, he's been our walk-off leader all year, so once we got into that situation, I think everybody in the dugout knew that he was going to come through for us because he's done it for us in those situations so many times this year," Reddick said.
"Once we get one or two runners on in that situation, we have a really good feeling that we're going to win that ballgame."
In the clubhouse after the game, with the music at full throttle and the A's high-fiving and recounting the particulars of their latest victory, there was plenty of joy and plenty of credit to be shared.
One thing that seemed to be in short supply, however, was surprise.
"Well, what it's done is give us a sense that we're never out of it until the last out," manager Bob Melvin said.
His players couldn't help but agree -- if the A's get a few runners on base in the last inning, they get to a point where they almost expect these results.
"There's kind of a feeling that it's just a matter of when and how we're going to pull it off," reliever Sean Doolittle said. "Once Reddick got on in that last inning, it was a matter of, 'We're going to pull this off somehow. I don't know who it's gonna be, who's gonna step up and be the hero, but it's gonna happen.'"
The Tigers will have to regroup, and it shouldn't be too hard considering their ace, Justin Verlander, is pitching Game 5. It also helps that their manager, Jim Leyland, has seen just about everything in his illustrious career. Wednesday's drama was nothing new.
Not when the A's have done it so many times.
"Yeah, well, it's baseball," Leyland said. "I mean, that's why this is the greatest game of all. 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. ... I thought we played our hearts out. Tonight we just didn't close it out."
Neither team has any clue as to what might transpire in Game 5, but while basking in the glow of yet another final-inning coup, the A's could be sure of one thing: If they find themselves in that situation again, they'll feel pretty good about their chances.
"We expect to come through in the clutch, no matter who it is on this team," Donaldson said. "On any given night, it could be anybody.
"You get confidence from having success in those situations, and obviously we've had a lot of success there, and we're going to keep grinding and we're going to keep battling."