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Tigers lead A's 2-0 through 3 innings in Game 5

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Tigers lead A's 2-0 through 3 innings in Game 5

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) Justin Verlander pitched scoreless ball and the Detroit Tigers took advantage of a pair of wild pitches by Jarrod Parker, taking a 2-0 lead over the Oakland Athletics through three innings in the decisive Game 5 of their AL division series Thursday night.

With the season at stake for both sides, Austin Jackson lined a double off the wall in left-center to score Omar Infante in the second. Jackson then stole second, advanced to third on Quintin Berry's bunt and scored on Parker's second wild pitch to quiet a yellow-towel twirling crowd that sold out the Oakland Coliseum.

Verlander allowed baserunners in each of the first two innings but never lost his grip. The reigning AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner struck out four.

Oakland had struck out 43 times in the series, the most of any postseason matchup in franchise history that lasted five games. The previous most was 42 in the 1974 World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The A's were looking to become the ninth team to win a best-of-five series after dropping the first two games.

They don't have to look far - or far back - for the last time, either. After dropping the first two at home, the Bay Area rival San Francisco Giants beat the Reds for the third straight game in Cincinnati earlier Thursday to advance to the NL championship series.

Even though they were at home, Oakland faced perhaps an ever bigger challenge in the winner-take-all finale against Verlander.

The hard-throwing right-hander struck out Coco Crisp and Stephen Drew before Yoenis Cespedes doubled to the left-center gap in the first. Then Seth Smith, who hit a game-tying two-run double in the ninth to lead the A's back in Game 4, hit a weak grounder back to Verlander on the first pitch.

In the second, Brandon Moss drew a two-out walk. After catcher Alex Avila briefly lost a pitch that Verlander bounced in the dirt, he threw out Moss trying to take second.

Wild pitches proved to be Parker's downfall.

Infante singled leading off the first, took second on a wild pitch and scored on Jackson's double. After Jackson moved over on Berry's bunt, Parker threw a wild pitch that got by catcher Derek Norris to hand Detroit a 2-0 lead.

The last A's pitcher to throw two wild pitches in a postseason game was Dan Haren in a Game 4 loss against Detroit on Oct. 14, 2006,

The Tigers were looking to advance to the AL championship series for the second straight season. They lost to the Texas Rangers in six games last year. Oakland was swept by the Tigers in four games in its last trip to the championship series in 2006.

The rematch of Game 1 starters featured contrasting credentials.

Parker, another Oakland rookie, allowed all three runs in 6 1-3 innings in a 3-1 loss. The right-hander faced a daunting challenge to keep pace with Verlander, who allowed a leadoff home run by Coco Crisp in seven innings in Game 1, a usual dominance led Detroit manager Jim Leyland to predict ``this game will probably be decided with Verlander in the game.''

``I don't have anybody better than him,'' Leyland said before the game. ``And if they get to him that much, we'll probably be in trouble.''

Verlander is the fifth pitcher to start a winner-take-all playoff game the year after winning a Cy Young. In all four previous instances, that pitcher's team lost the game.

The four pitchers were Steve Carlton (1981 Phillies), David Cone (1995 Yankees), Barry Zito (2003 Athletics) and Roy Halladay (2011 Phillies).

When Detroit arrived in the Bay Area this week, a Coliseum celebration seemed to be only a matter of time after taking the first two games at home.

Then again, this A's team has accomplished some impressive feats all season, including a major league-best 14 walk-off wins in the regular season - plus No. 15 on Wednesday night, when they rallied rallying from two runs down in the ninth off closer Jose Valverde for a stunning 4-3 victory - and taking three in a row from the two-time reigning AL champion Texas Rangers to win the AL West crown on the final day of the season.

Thursday night was the sixth straight game that Oakland's visiting clubhouse was prepped for a clinching celebration, with plastic sheets that cover the lockers and floors repacked each time, along with bottles of bubbly waiting to be popped.

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Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP

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Derrius Guice hopes to return from injured reserve as soon as he's eligible to

Derrius Guice hopes to return from injured reserve as soon as he's eligible to

Derrius Guice tweeted out a photo early Tuesday afternoon of himself and Alex Smith stepping onto a Redskins' practice field in Ashburn. Then, later on, he indicated the date he's hoping to make his return from injured reserve.

It shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that the energetic Guice wants to play as soon as he's eligible to.

When a fan asked the second-year pro on social media if he'd be back after the team's bye week, which is on Nov. 10, the running back replied with a "Yessir."

If he does in fact rejoin the Redskins then, his first appearance for the Burgundy and Gold would be a Week 11 matchup against the Jets. If they had a game in Week 10, he could be activated at that point, but they're off.

NFL rules stipulate that every franchise can bring two players off of I.R. after they've spent eight weeks on it. Guice suffered a knee injury in the season opener in Philadelphia and underwent meniscus surgery soon thereafter. It was an unfortunate obstacle for him especially after he missed all of 2018, but to his credit, he handled it well.

Considering No. 29's potential and the fact that Bill Callahan loves the running game, there's no doubt Washington would like to place him back on the roster when he's ready. Hopefully, he'll start practicing soon and get to a place where he's able to be relied upon. 

It's unlikely Guice's return will coincide with a Redskins playoff run, but it'll still be interesting to see if he can string together a healthy finish to the schedule. Between he, Terry McLaurin and Dwayne Haskins, there should be plenty of young talent to take in on offense in the second half of the 2019 campaign. 

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Bill Callahan might be an old-school running coach, but he knows he needs to adapt against 49ers

Bill Callahan might be an old-school running coach, but he knows he needs to adapt against 49ers

From the moment Bill Callahan took over as the Redskins interim head coach, he talked almost exclusively about establishing the run game in the offense. 

Last week in Miami his team did just that, running the ball 33 times for 145 yards. It was Washington's biggest output from the ground game this season, and by a wide margin. 

This week, however, the Redskins face a much stiffer challenge against San Francisco. The 49ers boast the second-best defense in the league, trailing only the Patriots, and Kyle Shanahan's team is giving up fewer than 90 rush yards-per0game. That's nearly 100 yards less than the Dolphins were giving up prior to last week's game against the Redskins. 

Last week, it made sense for Callahan to preach running the football. Miami was awful at defending it. This week, things look much different, and Redskins fans might be surprised to know Callahan looks willing to change his offensive scheme. 

"Every game is different," Callahan said in an interview with NBC Sports Washington.

"This game coming up may be different than last week. We may take certain shots on certain downs and distances, and change our tendencies as we go forward. That's always fluid."

Against the 0-4 Dolphins, the Redskins played a conservative offense that saw Case Keenum complete just 13 passes. He was able to connect with rookie wide receiver Terry McLaurin for two scores, but there were plenty of pass yards left on the field in Miami. The truth was Washington didn't need to do that much offensively to beat the awful Dolphins.

Against 5-0 San Francisco, the opposite is true. The Niners' offense ranks fifth in the league in yards-per-game and third in points-per-game. Shanahan's team plays great football on both sides, and the former Redskins offensive coordinator will very much want to show off his new squad on Sunday. 

Callahan seems quite aware of the circumstances for this game, and that could mean a much more aggressive Redskins offense. 

"I think that you are gameplan specific based on your opponent," the coach said. "Obviously, you want to take advantage of the things you can do. We will certainly focus in on that as we delve into the 49ers."

The Niners have won four out of five games by double digits, and two wins came by more than 20 points. This team is clicking on all cylinders right now. 

The Redskins have a serious task in front of them, and oddsmakers installed Washington as double-digit underdogs. The good news, even if minor, is Callahan looks like he understands the nature of his opponent and that he must adapt his team to best attack San Francisco. 

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