In their first game at Comerica Park since 2012′s ALDS Game 2 loss, the Athletics pulled out an 8-6 win over the Tigers on Monday night in the opener of a four-game series.
It wasn’t an easy win by any means – A’s pitchers had to make some big pitches in key moments, and they delivered just enough to secure the win (more on that later).
Against American League E.R.A. leader Anibal Sanchez, the A’s got off to a quick start in the first – Coco Crisp continued his torrid play with a leadoff double. Josh Donaldson drove him in with an RBI single two batters later, and after Brandon Moss singled, it brought up Yoenis Cespedes with runners on the corners and one out. Cespedes, still fighting some demons as far as his hitting is concerned, hit a grounder to Miguel Cabrera at third – but Cespedes ran hard to first, beating out the potential threat-ending double play and plating the A’s second run of the inning.
A’s starter A.J. Griffin sailed through the first, striking out Austin Jackson, Cabrera and Prince Fielder in impressive fashion. An inning later, the Tigers broke through with a two-run homer from Omar Infante, tying the game at 2-2 as Griffin once again failed to stay away from the home run ball.
Crisp stepped up to the plate in the top of the third and clubbed his fourteenth home run of the season, a solo shot to right that put the A’s back in front 3-2. In the fourth, Alberto Callaspo provided the A’s with a fourth run via an RBI single, scoring Seth Smith (who had walked). By this point, the A’s seemed to have Sanchez on the ropes, working the count and driving his pitch count up early – something he wasn’t accustomed to lately, considering he went six innings in each of his past seven outings.
The bottom of the fifth was another frustrating inning for Griffin. With one out, Jackson singled. Torii Hunter was retired on a foul bunt attempt for a big second out. On a 3-1 pitch to Miguel Cabrera, Griffin opted to throw up a curve on the outside corner – and Cabrera reached it with ease, poking a two-run homer to right field, tying the game at 4.
With the game tied at 4-4 and Sanchez up over the 100-pitch mark, the Tigers brought in lefty Jose Alvarez for the sixth inning. Consecutive singles from Nate Freiman, Callaspo and Daric Barton shot Oakland in front again at 5-4. An out later, Crisp drove in the sixth run of the night with an RBI single of his own, scoring Callaspo. Al Alburquerque came in and retired Jed Lowrie on a double play to end the inning, but the damage was done.
Against Alburquerque in the seventh, a two-out single from Callaspo drove in Freiman (who had walked), giving the A’s an important seventh run that would allow some breathing room for the stressful innings that followed.
Dan Otero, who had relieved Griffin in the sixth, continued in the seventh. With two outs, he walked Jackson and gave up a bloop single to Hunter. After Otero fell behind Cabrera 2-0, Bob Melvin elected to intentionally walk the dangerous Triple Crown candidate, who was the tying run. That loaded the bases with two outs for Prince Fielder, prompting Melvin to bring in Sean Doolittle.
In the first of two straight gutsy relief pitching performances, Doolittle got Fielder to fly out to deep center, ending the threat and preserving the 7-4 lead.
Oakland tacked on an additional inning in the eighth against Jeremy Bonderman, with Jed Lowrie’s RBI double scoring Stephen Vogt for the A’s eighth run. A note on Lowrie’s double:
Jed Lowrie’s 36 doubles match the most by a switch hitter in Oakland history (also: Nick Swisher, in 2007). #Athletics
— Adam Loberstein (@adamloberstein) August 27, 2013
The A’s were smart to keep scoring throughout the game – Doolittle’s first pitch of the eighth inning resulted in a Victor Martinez solo homer, pulling Detroit closer at 8-5. Against Ryan Cook, two-out singles from Brayan Pena and Jose Iglesias, followed by a walk to Austin Jackson, loaded the bases with two outs yet again – this time for Torii Hunter.
Cook extinguished the flame of a threat by striking out Hunter on an off-speed pitch, leaving the bases loaded.
After the A’s went quietly in the ninth, Grant Balfour came in for the save attempt. One-out singles from Fielder and Martinez brought up the tying run (again), in the form of Matt Tuiasosopo – who grounded to Donaldson at third for the second out of the inning, scoring Fielder. Balfour, though, retired Omar Infante on a grounder to short to end the inning, the game, and wrap up the big win for the green and gold.
With the victory, Oakland improved its record to 73-57.
Tomorrow night, Tommy Milone (9-9, 4.30 ERA) will face Justin Verlander (12-9, 3.68 ERA) at 4:08 p.m. PDT.