DETROIT (AP) — Justin Verlander is again standing between the Oakland Athletics and the AL championship series.
But only after Max Scherzer — the man who supplanted Verlander as Detroit’s top starter this year — kept the Tigers’ season alive with a relief outing to remember.
Scherzer escaped a major jam one inning after two fans reached out to try to reel in Victor Martinez’s disputed home run, and the Tigers rallied past the Oakland Athletics 8-6 Tuesday to force a decisive fifth game in their AL division series.
Verlander will start at Oakland on Thursday night, almost a year to the day after he shut out the A’s at the Coliseum in Game 5 of the division series last season. Scherzer was in line to start Game 5, but the 21-game winner came on Tuesday instead for his first relief appearance since the 2011 postseason. He wriggled out of a bases-loaded, none-out jam in the eighth inning and got the win.
Playing catch-up most of the way in Game 4, the Tigers tied it first with Jhonny Peralta’s three-run homer in the fifth and then on Martinez’s solo shot in the seventh. A couple of fans attempted to catch Martinez’s drive, and at least one of them bobbled the ball while reaching for it over the railing above the wall.
That prevented right fielder Josh Reddick from having any chance at a leaping grab. Reddick and center fielder Coco Crisp immediately protested, pointing up at the stands in the hope of a fan-interference call. But umpires upheld the home run after a replay review.
“I have no doubt I was going to catch that ball. When I looked at the replay, that’s what I thought,” Reddick said. “It’s totally frustrating that a fan can influence the game.”
Scherzer came out of the bullpen in the seventh and gave up a run, then ran into trouble again in the eighth. With the Tigers ahead 5-4, he allowed a walk and a double to start the inning. An intentional walk to load the bases followed, and Leyland opted to leave his ace on the mound.
Yoenis Cespedes hit a two-run single in the ninth, bringing the potential tying run to the plate, but Joaquin Benoit struck out Seth Smith to end it.