October 8, 2012 in Sports

In command

Rally gives Detroit 2-0 lead over Oakland
Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Tigers reliever Al Alburquerque kisses the ball before throwing out Oakland’s Yoenis Cespedes at first base for the final out in the top of the ninth inning.
(Full-size photo)

A.L. playoffs

Tigers 3, A’s 2

Detroit leads series 2-0

Next: Detroit at Oakland, Tuesday

Yankees 7, Orioles 2

New York leads series 1-0

Next: New York at Baltimore, today, 5 p.m. (TBS)

Al Alburquerque reached out and snagged a sharp grounder to the mound – then planted a little kiss on the ball before tossing it to first.

The relieved reliever gave his Detroit teammates a reason to laugh in the ninth inning of a tight game. Moments later, the Tigers were celebrating.

Don Kelly scored the tying run on a wild pitch in the eighth, then hit a bases-loaded sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth that lifted the Tigers over the Oakland Athletics 5-4 Sunday for a 2-0 lead in their A.L. playoff series.

Detroit overcame three A’s leads and seesawed to victory. It was 1-all before a wild final three innings that included a key error by Oakland center fielder Coco Crisp, two game-tying wild pitches and several momentum changes.

Alburquerque kept it tied in the ninth when he got Yoenis Cespedes to hit a comebacker with men on first and third and two outs. He gave the ball a quick smooch before throwing underhand to first.

“I just did it,” he said. “It was the emotion of the game. I wasn’t trying to be a hot dog.”

Oakland outfielder Josh Reddick wasn’t thrilled.

“We didn’t appreciate that. I thought it was immature and not very professional,” Reddick said. “You don’t do that on the field. Save it for the dugout. That’s all I’m going to say.”

Detroit will go for a sweep of the division series matchup in Game 3 on Tuesday at Oakland.

Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera doubled twice for the Tigers, hit a fly ball that Crisp dropped for two runs and later singled in the ninth.

It was the sixth straight postseason loss for the A’s, all to Detroit. The Tigers swept Oakland in the 2006 A.L. championship series, winning the series on Magglio Ordonez’s homer in Game 4.

Omar Infante and Cabrera hit back-to-back singles off Grant Balfour with one out in the ninth. With runners on first and third, Prince Fielder was intentionally walked, bringing up Kelly, who had stayed in the game as the designated hitter after pinch-running the previous inning.

“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.”

Kelly’s fly to right was plenty deep enough to score Infante without a play at the plate. It was another big playoff moment for Kelly, who hit a home run last year when the Tigers beat the New York Yankees in the decisive fifth game of the division series.

A favorite of manager Jim Leyland, Kelly hit .186 during the regular season but made the postseason roster as a pinch-running option who can also play any position in the field.

“It takes everybody to contribute and we got contributions from everybody,” Leyland said.

Yankees 7, Orioles 2

Russell Martin led off the ninth inning with a tiebreaking home run off Jim Johnson, CC Sabathia turned in a sparkling pitching performance and the New York Yankees beat the Baltimore Orioles 7-2 in Baltimore in the opener of their A.L. divisional series.

Sabathia allowed two runs and eight hits in 8 2/3 innings to help the Yankees spoil the Orioles’ first home playoff game since 1997. The left-hander went 0-2 in three starts against Baltimore during the regular season.

With the score 2-all, Martin drove a 2-0 pitch from Johnson into the left-field seats. It was the first of four straight hits off Johnson, who led the majors with 51 saves.

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