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

  • A's reliever Sean Doolittle is a lone figure in the dugout after Oakland was eliminated by Detroit in Game 5 of the AL Division Series. (KENT PORTER / The Press Democrat)

OAKLAND - Oakland A's designated hitter Seth Smith dug his cleats into the dirt of the batter's box and stared at Detroit pitcher Joaquin Benoit. It was screwy this moment. Maybe “surreal” is a better word.

It was the bottom of the ninth and the A's trailed the Tigers 3-0 and the A's hadn't been able to hit and there were two outs. But the A's had put men on first and second and a home run would tie the game, even though Tigers starter Justin Verlander had dominated the A's, annihilated them. Verlander pitched a no-hitter into the seventh inning. But in the ninth, Tigers manager Jim Leyland took him out for his closer, Benoit, and now Benoit seemed hittable in a way Verlander never was.

Surreal.

Oakland A's vs. Detroit Tigers ALDS Game 5

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Smith stared at Benoit. He expected a fastball and he got a fastball and he took his cut. Swung hard. The minute bat slammed ball, it was over — the at-bat, the game, the division series, the season. “I knew it was a fly out,” he said a few minutes later at his locker, his head down. “I should have hit it better than I did. I mean it went 200 feet.”

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.”

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