A dropped fly, two wild pitches and a little smooch for the baseball by a relieved reliever.
Then Don Kelly brought it all to an end with a simple fly ball.
Kelly scored the tying run on a wild pitch in the eighth inning, then hit a bases-loaded sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth that lifted the Detroit Tigers over the Oakland Athletics, 5-4, Sunday for a 2-0 lead in their AL playoff series.
“Was looking for a fastball and I got it,” Kelly said. “It’s a great feeling. To be able to go out there in that situation and do that.”
Detroit will go for a sweep of the division series matchup in Game 3 on Tuesday at Oakland.
“We just need to win a game,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. “If you start thinking about three games ahead, you lose your focus on Tuesday’s game.”
Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera doubled twice for the Tigers, hit a fly ball that resulted in a two-run error and later singled in the ninth.
The Tigers overcame three A’s leads and seesawed to victory. It was 1-all before a wild final three innings that included a big Oakland misplay, two game-tying wild pitches and several momentum changes.
It was the sixth straight postseason loss for the A’s, all to Detroit. The Tigers swept Oakland in the 2006 AL championship series, winning the series on Magglio Ordonez’s homer in Game 4 — which was Detroit’s last sudden-death postseason win before Sunday.
Cliff Pennington nearly came through again for Oakland in the ninth, but his deep drive down the left-field line was just foul. With runners on first and third and two out, Al Alburquerque got Yoenis Cespedes on grounder to the mound — and it looked like the right-hander planted a little kiss on the ball before throwing to first after he fielded the comebacker.
NATIONALS 3, CARDINALS 2
The Cardinals had the right guys up and were ready to break open their playoff opener against Washington.
Three pitches later, the course of Game 1 had changed. And soon, the defending World Series champion Cardinals had let their big chance slip away in a loss Sunday.
The Cardinals led 2-1 in the seventh inning and were poised to get more with the bases loaded and nobody out. Allen Craig, who led the National League with a .400 average with runners in scoring position, was up and MVP candidate Yadier Molina was on deck.
But Ryan Mattheus needed just two pitches to get out of the jam. Craig grounded into a forceout at the plate, then Molina bounced into an easy double play.
And on the first pitch of the eighth, Cardinals rookie shortstop Pete Kozma misplayed Michael Morse’s grounder. Ian Desmond followed that error with a hit and, two outs later, pinch hitter Tyler Moore slapped a two-strike single to right for a two-run single.
“It’s baseball,” Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday said. “They got a guy who throws groundballs and he came in and got two of them. You’ve got two of the best hitters in the league coming up. It just didn’t work out.”
The Nationals, who had never come close to making the playoffs since moving from Montreal for the 2005 season, overcame a wild outing by 21-game winner Gio Gonzalez to start the NL division series.