Athletics down Tigers 3-2 Wednesday to sweep the 3-game series on the road

DET Mengden

by Charlie O. Mallonee

Detroit — The Oakland Athletics have been the worst road team in all of baseball several times this season. They have been strong defenders of their home field, but the road has been their nemesis. Since a major league team plays 81 of their 162 games on the road, learning to win in the other guy’s park is mandatory.

The Athletics embarked on this nine-game road trip to Boston, Philadelphia and Detroit needing to prove to themselves that they could win on the road, and that is exactly what they did.

Wednesday in Detroit was a crowing effort for the A’s

The A’s had won the first two games of the series in Detroit. They had compiled a 5-3 record on the road. With Wednesday being a day/get-away game to head back to the Bay Area, it would have been very easy to have a mental let down and just go through the motions to get out of town in order to get home.

The Athletics did not do that. They played tough. They played solid defense behind their starting pitcher Daniel Mengden. The Athletics worked to get runs when they could and they won the game.

They also swept the three-game series at Comerica Park and finished the nine-game road trip with a record of 6-3.

Manager Bob Melvin was a happy man after the win on Wednesday

Pitching dictated the ultimate outcome of the game

Athletics starter Daniel Mengden threw seven shutout innings and extended his scoreless inning streak to 16-innings which is the longest for any A’s pitcher this season. He gave up no runs on seven hits. One of the big keys to his win was the fact that he did not issue a walk. Mengden struck out four Tigers. His record is now 2-1 with an ERA of 3.30.

Ryan Dull came to relieve Mengden in the eighth inning and set the Tigers down in order. It looked like the final inning would be uneventful.

Dull came out for the ninth because Melvin was hoping to rest his overworked bullpen. Dull walked the first batter he faced — Efren Navarro. Mikie Mahtook then hit a 1-1 pitch from Dull for a double that moved Navarro up to third. Pitching coach Scott Emerson came out for a visit before Dull went back to work.

Dull struck out the next batter he faced — pinch-hitter Tyler Collins — for the first out of the inning. Andrew Romine then stepped into the box and hit a single to right that drove Navarro and Mahtook home to make it a 3-2 game.

That was all for Dull as Bob Melvin brought Liam Hendriks in from the pen. There was also an injury delay as catcher Bruce Maxwell had to come out of the game after taking a ball off the mask. He was replaced by Phegley.

Hendricks was able to get Jose Iglesias to ground into a force out that erased Romine and left Iglesias at first on the fielder’s choice. With Alex Presley batting, Iglesias moved up to second on a wild pitch. Presley struck out swinging to end the game.

Hendricks was credited with a save but more importantly he put up a “Goose Egg” meaning he did not allow a run to score.

Detroit pitching

Tigers starter Anibal Sanchez pitched six-innings and allowed just one run (earned) on three hits. He walked three A’s and struck out eight. Sanchez threw an incredible 115 pitches (68 strikes). He was also tagged with the loss, so his record falls to 3-5.

The big problem for Detroit was their bullpen failed in its effort to throw “Goose Eggs”. Daniel Stumpf took over Sanchez in the seventh inning and gave up the two-run home to Marcus Semien that was the ultimate difference maker in the game.

Joe Jimenez and Zac Reininger each worked an inning of relief for Detroit and both posted “Goose Eggs” in the run column.

A’s batters

Marcus Semien was the man for Oakland in the big win on Wednesday. He not only hit the game deciding two-run home run in the seventh inning, but Semien posted all three of the Athletics RBI. In the series, he went 4-for-10 and scored four runs.

Catcher Bruce Maxwell went 2-for-4 in the game with a double and two runs scored. He is now hitting .315 in day game versus .205 under the lights. Guess who is catching the day games? Also, the initial reports are that Maxwell does not appear to have a concussion from the foul tip that caused him to leave the game in the ninth inning.

The Athletics scored three runs on six hits and left seven men on base. Their record improved to 69-83.

Detroit hitting

Nicholas Castellanos hit a single in the sixth inning which extended his hitting streak to a career-high 17 games. He hit .346 against the A’s in 2017.

Efren Navarro hit a single in the second inning that upped his hitting streak to five games. He now batting .400 — 6-for-15 — with a double and triple during the streak.

The Tigers posted two runs off nine hits and left eight runners on base. They also committed two errors. Detroit’s record now stands at 62-90.

Up next

The Athletics left for the Bay Area right after the game and will have Thursday off. The A’s begin a three-game series in Oakland with the Rangers on Friday night. RHP Kendall Graveman (5-4, 4.39) is scheduled to start for the Athletics. Texas has not named their starter.

The Tigers continue their homestand on Thursday as they begin a four-game series with the Twins.

Tigers Stun Athletics in Grand Fashion

By Matthew Harrington

The Detroit Tigers may not always beat the Oakland Athletics, but the motor city kitties tend to find the most excruciating ways to do it. After bouncing Swingin’ A’s from the postseason in the last two campaigns, the American League Central leaders added another chapter of success against their West Coast foes Monday night at Comerica Park, converting a 4-1 deficit in the ninth inning into a walk-off grand slam for Rajai Davis and the Tigers (45-34).

With a decent lead in the ninth, Oakland A’s Manager Bob Melvin tabbed bullpen backend stalwart Sean Doolittle (1-3, 2.97) to sit the Tigers down for three final outs. Instead the A’s bench boss saw a surefire victory turned into a stunning defeat. Detroit came to the plate in attack mode against Doolittle, with Nick Castellanos and Alex Avila reaching base with no outs three pitches in to the left-hander’s night.

Doolittle found his footing, striking out Eugenio Suarez but failed to put Austin Jackson away on a full-count pitch. Instead Doolittle nibbled outside the strike zone to bring former Athletic Rajai Davis to the plate representing the winning run. Davis patiently took the first-pitch delivery from Doolittle for a ball, then crushed a belt-high breaking ball deep to left field about ten feet from foul pole for his sixth home run of the season. Davis made reliever Blaine Hardy (101, 2.89 ERA) the winner, handing the 27-year-old his first Major League win

Doolittle saw his scoreless inning streak snapped at 26 1/3 innings Saturday in Miami, blowing his second save of the season after allowing a Casey McGehee single to tie the game at 6-6. With a second blown save Monday night, he now has failed to shut the door in two-straight games after going the first 38 games of the season with only one missed opportunity. Since taking over the closer’s role for a struggling Jim Johnson, the first baseman-turned-reliever has collected 11 saves in 2014.

The A’s (51-31) looked securely en route to their fifth-straight win after taking a commanding 4-1 lead in the eighth inning. Oakland and Detroit entered the inning tied 1-1 after strong performances from A’s starter Scott Kazmir and his counterpart Anibal Sanchez. Sanchez opened the frame getting Yoenis Cespedes to bounce a grounder to short, but Suarez threw the ball away on the play. Brandon Moss made Detroit pay for the mistake by lacing an RBI double to left, chasing Sanchez from the game with no outs in the seventh. The 2013 ERA leader allowed the two earned runs on eight hits with only a pair of strikeouts (including the 1,000th of his career) but exited in line for the loss.

Joba Chamberlain fared far worse in relief of Sanchez, allowing the first two batters he faced to reach base, walking Josh Donaldson before yielding a single to Stephen Vogt to load the bases. A visit to the mound by Tigers Pitching coach Jeff Jones proved only a brief respite for Chamberlain, as Lowrie took the fifth pitch of the next at-bat to left for a two-run single to stake the A’s to a commanding 4-1 lead.

Lowrie knocked in the A’s first run of the game on an RBI single of Sanchez in the top of the sixth, but 2012 Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera responded in the home half of the inning by ripping a solo home run off Kazmir to left field, the 14th long ball of the season for the back-to-back American League Most Valuable Player.

Kazmir would then walk J.D. Martinez before exiting the game two pitches in to the next batter. Kazmir appeared to suffer tightness in his lead leg after bouncing the first pitch to Nick Castellanos well in front of the plate. After a brief visit from Melvin and trainer, the southpaw stayed in the game for one last pitch. After seeing his pitcher grimace on the pitch, Melvin instantly jumped up to pull his ace from the game.

After the game, Melvin stated that Kazmir was fine and the quick trigger was precautionary. Kazmir also departed his last start against the New York Mets on Tuesday earlier than expected, surrendering seven earned runs over three innings of a 10-1 shelling in Flushing Meadows. Aside from the one blip, Kazmir has been rock solid as the anchor of the A’s rotation, potentially in line to make this season’s All-Star team after going 9-3 with a 2.66 ERA in his first 16 starts for the green and gold.

The A’s won’t have an easy road bouncing back, as they’ll face the Tigers’ surpise of 2014 Rick Porcello (10-4, 3.41) in the second game of the three-game series. Oakland sends lefty Brad Mills to the mound in his first start since getting his first win since 2012, outdueling Zack Wheeler and the Mets last Wednesday.

Kazmir, Athletics Walk Off to Complete Game Win

By Matthew Harrington

OAKLAND, Calif. — The narrative surrounding the Oakland Athletics over the past three season states that the green and gold achieve with a line-up devoid of super stars but rife with supporting cast members. Josh Donaldson tossed that notion out the window with one swing of the bat Wednesday night, crushing a three-run walk-off home run off closer Joe Nathan to give the A’s (32-21) a 3-1 decision over the American League Central leading Detroit Tigers at O.Co Coliseum.

“For the fans that was a fun game to watch,” said A’s starter Scott Kazmir. “Throughout the game it seemed like (Detroit Tigers Starter) Anibal Sanchez and I were battling it out. We ended up getting a couple base runners in the ninth and you just kind of had that feeling when Josh came up. He swung at the first pitch and didn’t miss it. That was awesome.”

Kazmir pitched a complete game but watched the bottom of the ninth on the hook for a loss after allowing a solo blast to Torii Hunter with two outs in the fourth for the only Detroit run. Donaldson picked his starter up, launching his 13th four-bagger to extend his streak of reaching base to 43 games when penciled on the line-up card at third base.

The pitchers’ duel expected Tuesday night in the much ballyhooed showdown between ace Sonny Gray and 2013 AL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer never materialized, instead morphing into a battle of the bullpens in a 6-5 home team loss. The true display of pitching prowess came Wednesday night, with Kazmir (6-2, 2.36 ERA) and Detroit’s Sanchez allowing a combined eight hits.

“You always want to give your starting pitcher support,” said A’s manager Bob Melvin. “Sanchez was unbelievable tonight. He pitched backwards. Fastballs in breaking ball counts, a lot of change-ups in counts where you’d expect fastballs. It took us a while to score some runs at the end but we kept grinding.”

Sanchez dazzled the Oakland hitters, scattering three hits over 8 1/3 innings, striking out nine while only walking one. He appeared en route to his ninth career complete game, but a one out double in the ninth by Coco Crisp knocked him out of the game after 111 pitches. First-year Detroit manager Brad Ausmus tabbed Nathan to close out the contest and nail down his 13th save of the season.

“I don’t think anybody thought we were going to come up short,” said Melvin. “Once Coco got on I think we had a really good feeling we were going to win the game. That’s what this team has been great at here in the last couple years. Until that last out is recorded, we always feel optimistic that we have a win.”

John Jaso continued the rally, flipping a 2-2 Nathan delivery over the third baseman Nick Castellanos’ outstretched glove for a single, setting up base runners on first-and-third with one away for Donaldson, the fourth place finisher in the 2013 AL MVP voting.

“In that situation, they’re looking for a double play,” said Donaldson. “I was just trying to hit something in the air and get one run.”

Donaldson wasted little time against Nathan(2-1, 4.58), crushing the first-pitch offering from the four-time All-star deep to left field to hand the righty his fourth blown save of the year. The A’s third basemen stood at home plate watching as his blast sailed dangerously close to the foul pole.

“I was just trying to watch it to see if it stayed fair,” said Donaldson. “If it went foul, I didn’t want to waste my energy running.”

The ball indeed landed fair for Donaldson’s second career walk-off home run, the first also coming against Detroit last April. While the homer, Donaldson’s 13th of the campaign, marked a huge highlight in the young slugger’s career he remained humbled about its significance.

“It’s just one of those things,” said Donaldson sheepishly. “I just go out there and play to win.”

The homer, which no doubt will play repeatedly on sports highlight shows until the next news cycle tomorrow, boosts Donaldson’s candidacy for a 2014 All-Star game starting spot. He currently sits in first place amongst third basemen in the fan vote, and could be the A’s first position player to appear in a Mid-Summer Classic in 11 seasons.

Donaldson entered play Wednesday second in the AL in runs scored (42), tied for second in go-ahead RBIs (38) and fifth in home runs (12). He’s also ranks in the top ten in slugging percentage, walks, RBIs and extra base hits. Those numbers are reminiscent of former A’s basher Jason Giambi, green and gold member elected by the fans to the All-star squad back in 2000.

No stranger to the All-star game, Torii Hunter made his presence felt earlier in the game. The right fielder crushed Kazmir’s only mistake, a full count pitch to deep right center field for his second home run in as many nights. The 38-year-old Hunter now owns eight long balls on the season along with 29 runs batted in for the Motor City Kitties. Kazmir finished the night with eight strikeouts and no walks for his first complete game since 2006.

“We’ve seen him pitch pretty similar to this a few times,” said Melvin. “He’s been consistent for us. It probably rates up there with some of his games. But when you’re pitching against a guy that’s throwing the ball that well, you’re not scoring very many runs. You have to be perfect. He was close to that.

Melvin would like to receive another near perfect performance when he sends Jesse Chavez to the mound to stymy the AL’s best offensive team in the matinee finale of the four-game set Thursday afternoon. Detroit (29-20) sends Rick Porcello, owner of seven wins in 2014, to the hill seeking a series split after losing the first and third games in Oakland.