DETROIT -- The Oakland A's are mad at Tigers reliever Al Alburquerque, which is like being mad at a motorized toy car that keeps going in circles. Alburquerque is such an odd duck that the other ducks screen their calls so they don't have to talk to him.
"He is in his own little world," Tigers catcher Alex Avila said, and I guess in that world, it is perfectly normal to field a ground ball in the ninth inning of a tied playoff game,
So I can't fault the A's for being mad at Alburquerque. If I were them, I'd be mad at everything.
I'd be mad about be down 2-games-to-0 in the American League Division Series even though it could easily be 1-1. I'd be mad that Tigers outfielder Don Kelly, a career .232 hitter, just delivered the game-winning RBI. I'd be mad that centerfielder Coco Crisp, one of the best fielders in the game, dropped a crucial fly ball. I'd be mad at Bud Selig for making me start a postseason series on the road against a team with a worse record. I'd be mad at baseball's payroll structure, and at agent Scott Boras for convincing the Tigers to overpay for so many of his clients, and at Ben Franklin for being on the $100 dollar bill. I'd have enough mad to go around.
Let's start with Alburquerque. With two outs in the ninth inning, he came out of the bullpen, which must have been a relief to everybody in the bullpen who was trying to have a conversation with him. There were runners on first and third. He got A's rookie Yoenis Cespedes to hit a ground ball back to the pitcher.
Alburquerque gave the ball the old Cary Grant treatment, then tossed it to first base.
"It got under my skin," A's outfielder Josh Reddick said. "It was very unprofessional. I didn't appreciate that one bit."
Alburquerque had company under Reddick's skin. Reddick was visibly angry at home-plate umpire Mark Wegner, too. Reddick struck out in his first three at-bats of Game 2, after striking out in all three of his at-bats in Game 1, and he pretty clearly did not like Wegner's strike zone.
Then, with the score tied in the eighth inning, Reddick hit a home run.
It would have been the game-winning home run.
Except, you know, the A's are apparently not allowed to win in the playoffs.
When it comes to winning baseball games, there is no rhyme or reason at this point in the season. OK, I guess there is a rhyme. But reason? Well, what were the A's supposed to think Sunday afternoon? This felt as random as sports can be.
The Tigers were not the better team. There was no better team. The Tigers scored two runs in the seventh when Crisp dropped a shallow fly ball. A's fans would have laughed if they weren't so busy crying. Just a few days ago, Rangers centerfielder Josh Hamilton dropped a shallow fly ball to help the A's clinch the division. Now the same mistake was killing their season.
"He's done such an unbelievable job for us this year," A's pitcher Sean Doolittle said. "It's kind of a shame that's what we're talking about right now. He catches that ball 999 times out of 1,000. We've all seen him make that play so many times this year. It's just one of those weird things that I really can't explain."
Of course that 999-out-of-1,000 line is extreme. I looked up the stats, and in his career Crisp has actually only caught ... well, 991 out of 1000 fly balls. I'm sure that makes the A's feel so much better.
Crisp has a target tattooed on his neck, and the rest of the A's must feel like they do, too. Baseball's best story just turned dark at the worst possible time.
They swear they can handle this. They swear it will be good to go home. They should probably just swear, period, for at least a few hours, just to get it out of their system. Then they should get their hopes up again by thinking this:
"Playoff baseball, you never know. It's always one pitch. You never know when that pitch is going to be."
You know who said that? Don Kelly. He is the guy who hit the game-winning sacrifice fly.
The A's can't be mad at Kelly, one of the nicest guys in baseball. They can be mad he helped beat them, though. And yeah, they can be mad that Alburquerque showed them up.
"That's exactly what he was doing," Reddick said. "I don't think anybody from one day of experience in the big leagues to 15 years of experience in the big leagues should do that."
Well, what's the old saying? Yes: Don't get mad, get even. But even if the A's win two straight games to even the series, they would have to face Justin Verlander in Game 5. And I'd be mad about that too.