OAKLAND, Calif.

Jose Valverde sat at his locker in disbelief, head down and elbows on his knees. His Tigers teammates ate in stunned silence.

Valverde, Detroit’s demonstrative closer who saved all 49 of his chances last year, blew the save with his team on the cusp of a second straight trip to the AL championship series and the Oakland Athletics rallied once more to force a Game 5 in their AL division series with a 4-3 win Wednesday night.

“We all have his back,” catcher Gerald Laird said of Valverde. “There’s not one guy we blame on this team.”

Coco Crisp lined a game-ending single to right field with two outs in the ninth as the A’s found one more furious rally to stay alive for another day.

Valverde called it the toughest moment yet in his stellar career. The 34- year-old pitcher is wrapping up his three-year contract with the Tigers.

After Josh Reddick hit a leadoff single and Josh Donaldson doubled, Valverde surrendered a game-tying tworun double to Seth Smith and later Crisp’s big hit. Valverde has long been manager Jim Leyland’s reliable ninth-inning man — and he so hopes to get the ball again tonight. Valverde earned his fourth postseason save in Saturday’s 3-1 Game 1 win, then missed a chance to become the franchise’s postseason saves leader. He currently shares that distinction with Willie Hernandez and Todd Jones.

Now, the Tigers will turn the ball over to their ace and Game 1 winner to lead them in Game 5. Verlander, the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner and MVP, struck out 11 batters in the series opener at Comerica Park.

Yankees 3, Orioles 2, 12 innings

NEW YORK (AP) — Raul Ibanez pinch hit for Alex Rodriguez and went on to become the first player in major league history to homer twice in a postseason game he didn’t start. His tying drive in the ninth inning and a winning shot in the 12th gave New York a 3-2 victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday and a 2-1 lead in their bestof five AL division series.

Including the playoffs, Ibanez has four home runs that tied the score for the Yankees and eight that put New York ahead. He also homered twice after entering as a pinch hitter on Sept. 22 in a 10-9, 14-inning win over Oakland. And with New York fighting for the AL East title, he hit a tying pinch homer against Boston in the ninth on Oct. 2 and then singled in the winning run in the 12th.

And now he has his own edition of Yankees Classics.

Ibanez tied the game at 2 when he drove a 94 mph fastball from Jim Johnson over right-center field scoreboard with one out in the ninth.

In the 12th, Ibanez sent a 91 mph pitch from Brian Matusz into the right field second deck.

“I think the tendency late in the game when the game is tied is, I think as players, we try to do a little too much,” Ibanez said. “I was trying to fight that feeling, trying not to do too much.”

Ibanez’s teammates had trouble digesting the inconceivable.

“It seemed like it was something out of a cartoon,” Yankees starter Hiroki Kuroda said through a translator. “It was unbelievable.”



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