DETROIT — Al Alburquerque reached out and snagged a sharp grounder to the mound — then planted a little kiss on the ball before tossing it to first.
The relieved reliever gave his Detroit teammates a reason to laugh in ninth inning of a tight game. Moments later, the Tigers were celebrating.
Don Kelly scored the tying run on a wild pitch in the eighth, then hit a bases-loaded sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth that lifted the Tigers over the Oakland Athletics 5-4 Sunday for a 2-0 lead in their AL playoff series.
Detroit overcame three A's leads and seesawed to victory. It was 1-all before a wild final three innings that included a key error by Oakland center fielder Coco Crisp, two game-tying wild pitches and several momentum changes.
Alburquerque kept it tied in the ninth when he got Yoenis Cespedes to hit a comebacker with men on first and third and two outs. He gave the ball a quick smooch before throwing underhand to first.
"I just did it," he said. "It was the emotion of the game. I wasn't trying to be a hot dog."
Oakland outfielder Josh Reddick wasn't thrilled.
"We didn't appreciate that. I thought it was immature and not very professional," Reddick said. "You don't do that on the field. Save it for the dugout. That's all I'm going to say."
Detroit will go for a sweep of the division series matchup in Game 3 on Tuesday at Oakland.
Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera doubled twice for the Tigers, hit a fly ball that Crisp dropped for two runs and later singled in the ninth.
It was the sixth straight postseason loss for the A's, all to Detroit. The Tigers swept Oakland in the 2006 AL championship series, winning the series on Magglio Ordonez's homer in Game 4 — which was Detroit's last sudden-death postseason win before Sunday.
Omar Infante and Cabrera hit back-to-back singles off Grant Balfour with one out in the ninth. With runners on first and third, Prince Fielder was intentionally walked, bringing up Kelly, who had stayed in the game as the designated hitter after pinch-running the previous inning.
"Was looking for a fastball and I got it," Kelly said. "It's a great feeling, to be able to go out there in that situation and do that."
Yankees 7, Orioles 2
At Baltimore, the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles staged a magnificent duel worthy of two division foes that split 18 games during the regular season and finished two games apart in the standings ... for eight innings.
Then the Yankees brushed aside the upstart, inexperienced newcomers and crashed a party 15 years in the making.
Russell Martin led off the ninth inning with a tiebreaking home run off Jim Johnson, CC Sabathia turned in a sparkling pitching performance and the Yankees pulled away to a victory in the opener of their AL divisional series.
Sabathia allowed two runs and eight hits in 8 2-3 innings to help the Yankees take the edge off the Orioles' first home playoff game since 1997. The husky left-hander went 0-2 in three starts against Baltimore during the regular season, but in this one he returned to form and improved his lifetime record against the Orioles to 17-4.
"Fastball command was good, worked off that," Sabathia said. "Throwing the ball pretty good getting the corners. Tried to stay out there and make some pitches."
Sabathia is 6-1 with the Yankees in the postseason, 4-0 in the division series.
"I thought he gave us a great performance," New York manager Joe Girardi said. "Didn't give up a lot of hard hit balls tonight, had a really good changeup tonight, and I thought he used it very effectively."
With the score 2-all, Martin drove a 2-0 pitch from Johnson into the left-field seats.
"I definitely wasn't thinking home run," Martin said. "He left a fastball up and I put good wood on it."
It was the first of four straight hits off Johnson, who led the majors with 51 saves. Raul Ibanez and Derek Jeter followed with singles, Ichiro Suzuki drove in a run with a swinging bunt and one out later, Robinson Cano hit a two-run double.
In his seven prior appearances against New York, Johnson allowed one run in seven innings and had three saves. Nick Swisher capped the five-run ninth with a sacrifice fly off Tommy Hunter.
"I made mistakes," Johnson said. "I obviously paid for those, and that was location. It wasn't anything else. Two fastballs that really cost us. Just have to make a better pitch. That's all it comes down to."
Nationals 3, Cardinals 2
At St. Louis, the St. Louis Cardinals had the right guys up and were ready to break open their playoff opener against the Washington Nationals.
Three pitches later, the course of Game 1 had changed. And soon, the defending World Series champion Cardinals had let their big chance slip away in a loss.
The Cardinals led 2-1 in the seventh inning and were poised to get more with the bases loaded and nobody out. Cleanup hitter Allen Craig, who led the National League with a .400 average with runners in scoring position, was up and MVP candidate Yadier Molina was on deck.
But reliever Ryan Mattheus needed just two pitches to get out of the jam. Craig grounded into a forceout at the plate, then Molina bounced into an easy double play.
And on the first pitch of the eighth, Cardinals rookie shortstop Pete Kozma misplayed Michael Morse's grounder. Ian Desmond followed that error with a hit and, two outs later, pinch hitter Tyler Moore slapped a two-strike single to right for a two-run single.
"It's baseball," Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday said. "They got a guy who throws groundballs and he came in and got two of them. You've got two of the best hitters in the league coming up. It just didn't work out."
The Nationals, who had never come close to making the playoffs since moving from Montreal for the 2005 season, overcame a wild outing by 21-game winner Gio Gonzalez to start the NL division series.