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A game to forget for the Athletics

DETROIT -- After blowing a three-run lead and squandering a great scoring opportunity in what could have been a series-clinching game, the Oakland Athletics talked about putting their 8-6 Game 4 loss to the Detroit Tigers behind them and preparing for Thursday's deciding Game 5.

"Once we all go to bed, it's got to be done," right fielder Josh Reddick said. "We can't dwell on it going into tomorrow and Thursday. If we do that, it will just expand in our minds and be even worse and worse. We can't do that."

If Reddick was able to wipe his mind and somehow have a night of pleasant dreams, he should go into the sleep-aid industry, because the man had enough on his mind from Tuesday's loss to keep an entire city of fans awake all winter if Oakland doesn't bounce back in Game 5. Oakland led 3-0 after four innings, didn't allow a hit until the fifth, had the likely Cy Young winner, Max Scherzer, behind in the score and on the ropes in an emergency relief appearance … and still lost.

Where to begin? How about the seventh inning, when Reddick watched the Athletics' 4-3 lead disappear just beyond his glove when Detroit designated hitter Victor Martinez drove a ball over the fence and off a fan. Shades of Jeffrey Maier? Yes, but this time, replays clearly showed the ball was above the yellow line, which is fair game for a fan to reach out for a souvenir.

Reddick, however, insisted he would have caught the ball had the fan not reached out and deflected the it.

"Where the fans can affect the play, it can change the momentum. And it changed the momentum for them and changed the momentum for us," Reddick said. "They seemed to feed off that and built on it. All you can look at as home-field advantage and it being absolutely frustrating that a fan can change the outcome of a game."

Tigers right fielder Torii Hunter, who is no stranger to robbing home runs, congratulated the fans for their play. When he ran out to his position the next inning, he said, "I told them, 'Good job! Good job! Way to go!' Those are our fans, and I'm excited that they reached over and caught that before [Reddick] did."

Reddick had a chance the next inning to make that home run a mere footnote in the game story when he and the Athletics squandered a terrific chance to score against Scherzer after the Tigers had taken a 5-4 lead.

Tigers manager Jim Leyland brought Scherzer in to pitch relief in the seventh even though it meant the likely Cy Young winner would be unavailable to start Game 5 on Thursday. But the move made sense -- the Tigers bullpen is fairly suspect and Leyland has Justin Verlander ready to go on four days' rest Thursday. And if you're playing what could be the final game of your season, you want to make sure you use your best pitcher, if possible.

Scherzer didn't pitch well; he allowed the go-ahead run in the top of the seventh and put runners on second and third to begin the eighth inning. And that's when Leyland made another interesting move. He had Scherzer intentionally walk Seth Smith to lead the bases and bring up Reddick.

Why put extra runners on base in a close game? Because second and third is a bad situation to begin with, and loading the bases at least gives you the possibility of turning a double play. The downside, of course, is if your pitcher walks the next batter. And that's what Scherzer nearly did when he threw a 3-2 changeup inside and in the dirt.

It should have been ball four for a walk to force in a run and a tie game. Instead, Reddick swung at the pitch and missed for a crucial strikeout.

"He threw me seven straight fastballs at 96, 97 miles per hour, so it's kind of hard to get off a pitch like that even though his changeup is as good as it is," Reddick said. "He made a great pitch, and I swung at it out of the zone."

"I just thought that if I executed a changeup that there was a chance I could get a swing and a miss," Scherzer said. "I bounced it on the wrong side of the plate. I pulled it, but it still had the effectiveness of looking like a fastball because it got a swing and miss."

Scherzer struck out Stephen Vogt for the second out and retired pinch hitter Alberto Callaspo on a line drive to center to end the inning.

"We had the bases loaded and nobody out -- clearly the situation you want to be in -- and we just didn't come through, myself included," Vogt said. "[Scherzer] got tough, and we didn't match it and he was able to get out of the inning."

Detroit scored three runs in the bottom of the eighth and held off a late Oakland rally in the ninth to win the game and extend the series. Their bats that had been so silent were alive again, starting with Jhonny Peralta, who hit a three-run homer in the fifth inning despite serving the final stretch of his 50-game suspension for doping just two weeks ago. Heck, even Austin Jackson, who had struck out 10 times in the series, gave his team the lead for good with a broken-bat single in the seventh.

And so while Reddick and the Athletics had much to forget, the Tigers had much to remember.

"We definitely have a heartbeat," Hunter said.

The teams will play a rematch of last postseason's Game 5, and, again, Verlander will start for the Tigers. Oakland manager Bob Melvin, however, said he isn't certain whether he will start 40-year-old Bartolo Colon or rookie Sonny Gray.

Whoever pitches and whoever wins, it should be an interesting game, one the victors will celebrate and the defeated will rue while they toss and turn and wonder "if only" until spring training.