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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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Mystics star Kristi Toliver excited to officially join Wizards coaching staff

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USA Today Sports

Mystics star Kristi Toliver excited to officially join Wizards coaching staff

After months of serving a variety of roles for the organization, Kristi Toliver now has an official title with the Washington Wizards. The Mystics star has joined Scott Brooks' staff as an assistant coach and assistant for player development.

Toliver, 31, will remain a member of the Mystics, who play their season during the summer. The lack of overlap will allow her to focus much of her time on the Wizards and what she hopes becomes a long and successful coaching career.

She chose joining the Wizards over continuing to play professionally this year overseas, an option many WNBA players use in the offseason. But she has a coaching dream and happens to have caught on with the hometown team.

"This is the opportunity of a lifetime. When it came about, I wanted to be involved in any capacity that I could," Toliver said.

Toliver is the first active WNBA player to serve on an NBA bench and just the second woman after Becky Hammon, who is an assistant for the San Antonio Spurs. Toliver plans to reach out to Hammon after getting her phone number from Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird.

Toliver is honored to be in the same category with Hammon, whom she looked up to first as a player and now as a coach who has become a trailblazer in the profession.

"I know she's going to be somebody that I can ask questions to," Toliver said. "I will pick her brain about how she played and I will pick her brain about how she is coaching."

Hammon joined the Spurs' coaching staff in 2014 after years of helping the team out in other ways. Now that there are two female NBA assistants, the logical question is when one will become a head coach.

Wizards All-Star Bradley Beal can already attest to Toliver's impact and said there could be a female head coach "very soon."

"I wouldn't be surprised if it happened sooner rather than later," Beal said. "If you know the game, you know the game. Plain and simple."

Toliver has served as a coach in the Wizards' 5-on-5 scrimmages at practice. She has also been particularly helpful with ball-handling, which makes sense given she's the starting point guard for the Mystics. Toliver has helped a variety of Wizards players in dribbling drills including the big men like Jeff Green and Dwight Howard.

Coaching has required an adjustment for Toliver, who is used to having the ball in her hands running the offense. But just as being a player can help her as a coach, she expects to become a better player now seeing the game from a new perspective.

"I'd much rather be playing, I know that. But it's good to think the game in a different way and from a different point of view," she said.

Brooks has been effusive in his praise of Toliver ever since she began helping out in the Las Vegas Summer League in July. He invited her to join the staff over the phone shortly before the Summer League began and will admit he did not know at the time the relationship would get this far.

But over the summer, Brooks lost two assistants to other teams in Chad Iske and Sidney Lowe, paving the way for some movement on his staff. He promoted several positions from within and an opening was created for Toliver to come on board.

"She's a special talent. She's going to be moving through the ranks pretty quick," Brooks said.

MORE WIZARDS NEWS:

NBC Sports Regional Networks launches customized, team-focused ‘MyTeams by NBC Sports’ app

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NBC Sports

NBC Sports Regional Networks launches customized, team-focused ‘MyTeams by NBC Sports’ app

FIRST-OF-ITS-KIND MOBILE APP PROVIDES FANS COMPREHENSIVE MULTI-MEDIA EXPERIENCE COVERING NFL, NBA, NHL AND MLB TEAMS

LIVE STREAMS OF GAMES, PREGAME AND POSTGAME SHOWS FROM NBC SPORTS’ REGIONAL SPORTS NETWORKS HIGHLIGHT FEATURES

LIVE AND ON-DEMAND VIDEO, AUDIO AND WRITTEN CONTENT GIVES FANS EXPANDED ACCESS TO THEIR FAVORITE TEAMS

STAMFORD, Conn. – Oct. 16, 2018 – NBC Sports Regional Networks today launched MyTeams by NBC Sports, a first-of-its-kind, team-focused mobile app that provides fans customized, all-in-one access to complete coverage of their favorite teams — highlighted by live-game streaming of their local teams.  MyTeams aggregates all multi-media content focused on the 25 NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB teams covered by NBC Sports Regional Networks. Starting now, fans anywhere in the U.S. can download MyTeams for free on iOS and Android devices in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.

MyTeams’ innovative design features individual feeds for each team. Fans select their favorite team or teams, with no limit, in order of preference, to create a customized content offering that matches their passions, priorities and interests. MyTeams’ robust complement of live and on-demand video, podcasts and written content gives fans a single source to easily find, access and consume all of the coverage that matters most to them – including live games in the market where they subscribe, news, entertainment, analysis, commentary and more. The app’s user-friendly interface and creative presentation allow fans to navigate easily between all of their favorite teams.

MyTeams is highlighted by live coverage of NBA, NHL and MLB games produced by NBC Sports Bay Area, NBC Sports Boston, NBC Sports California, NBC Sports Chicago, NBC Sports Northwest, NBC Sports Philadelphia and NBC Sports Washington. Live streams of the networks’ pregame and postgame shows, including NFL programs, will also be available on MyTeams. Live-game coverage will automatically play at the top of the respective team pages when available to fans. Authenticated subscribers of the local NBC Sports Regional Network providing the coverage in their region will be able to watch complete live games and game day shows, as well as the network’s linear television channel, from anywhere in the U.S. at no additional cost.

MyTeams pages are available for six NFL teams, seven NBA teams, five NHL teams and seven MLB teams: The NFL’s Chicago Bears, Oakland Raiders, New England Patriots, Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles, San Francisco 49ers and Washington Redskins; NBA’s Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, NBA Champion Golden State Warriors, Philadelphia 76ers, Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings and Washington Wizards; NHL’s Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, Philadelphia Flyers, San Jose Sharks and Stanley Cup Champion Washington Capitals; MLB’s Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Oakland Athletics, Philadelphia Phillies, San Francisco Giants and Washington Nationals.

NBC Sports Regional Networks is NBC Sports Group’s portfolio of nine regional networks that delivers more than 2,200 live sporting events and original content to more than 35 million homes. Aligned within Eastern and Western Divisions, the NBC Sports Regional Networks are: NBC Sports Boston, NBC Sports Philadelphia, NBC Sports Philadelphia +, NBC Sports Washington, NBC Sports Washington + and SNY; and NBC Sports Bay Area, NBC Sports California, NBC Sports Chicago and NBC Sports Northwest. For more information on NBC Sports Group properties, including press releases, photos, talent and executive bios, headshots and logos, please visit www.NBCSportsGroupPressBox.com

-NBC SPORTS REGIONAL NETWORKS-