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Lowell Cohn: A's never recovered from Game 4 ALDS loss

  • Relief pitcher Sean Doolittle of Oakland lingers in the dugout after the A's were beat by the Tigers 3-0, during game five of the ALDS Thursday Oct.10, 2013 in Oakland. Detroit will advance to the ALCS. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2013

Technically, the A's lost the series on Thursday night. But you know that's not true. They lost it Tuesday in Detroit when they had the Tigers dead, when they had the bases loaded with nobody out in the eighth and they didn't score and the Tigers won the game. The moment — that moment — which had been the A's moment, simply went away.

By losing Tuesday, they guaranteed themselves Verlander on Thursday. For them it was a bad guarantee. And it meant Game 5 was an anticlimax, a foregone conclusion, the end.

A's shortstop Jed Lowrie disagreed with the interpretation I just put forward. "It's low hanging fruit to say Game 4 was a disappointment," he said. "They deserved that win. They fought for it. We didn't give it to them."

Oakland A's vs. Detroit Tigers ALDS Game 5

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Lowrie is entitled to his opinion, but Game 4 was a disappointment, a soul-sapping disaster. And the A's never recovered.

Game 5 turned, as you surely know, in the top of the fourth when Miguel Cabrera hit a long, high, elegant two-run homer to left field. On the radio, Vince Cotroneo, who was doing play by play, had just said, "Cabrera has gone 52 at-bats without a long ball."

The words were not even out of his mouth when Cabrera crushed the pitch, an inside fastball, out of the yard. There had been so much talk about Cabrera's power outage, about his hurt groin and how he couldn't get around on pitches. He got around on that one. How long did the world think the best hitter in baseball wouldn't get around?

Afterward, A's manager Bob Melvin said of Cabrera, "It looked like his approach the whole series was to hit the ball up the middle and he didn't have the leg drive that he normally does. So, a little surprised he pulled it for a home run. I don't know how surprised you can be when Miguel Cabrera hits a home run."

And after that, the degree of difficulty for the A's ratcheted up exponentially. "You're down two runs, guys. Now, take back that lead from Verlander." Good luck.

A's starter Sonny Gray pitched well, but not as well as Game 2. In Game 5, the game of the season, the A's started a rookie pitcher. A beginner. A latecomer. Someone who had been in the majors fewer than nine weeks. They got at least five executives together, maybe more, and studied charts and tendencies and handed the ball to a rookie.

I am not questioning starting Gray over Bartolo Colon. The five men had their reasons. But this is what the A's had and what they are. Their best pitcher is defined as a raw youth and raw youth is defined by making mistakes — like the killer home run to Cabrera. Gray's fastball was working but his curve, which drove the Tigers crazy in Game 2, was imprecise and wholly hittable.


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