Big Inning Paces Tigers to Sweep of A’s

By Matthew Harrington

For the second time in the three-game series at Detroit, a big inning doomed the Oakland Athletics hopes of exacting revenge on the team that bounced them from both the 2012 and 2013 playoffs. Wednesday afternoon, the Detroit Tigers pounced on A’s pitching for a six-run sixth inning to seal up a 9-3 win and a series sweep in a matinee game at Comerica Park. Detroit (47-34)used a four-run bottom of the ninth Monday to walk off winners then shut the A’s out 3-0 Tuesday night.

A’s starter Jesse Chavez (6-5, 3.23 ERA) turned in his second-consecutive forgettable performance, taking the loss after surrendering four runs to the potent Detroit offense. In his last start on Friday against the Marlins, Chavez went only five innings in a six-hit, four-run no decision. His opponent Justin Verlander (7-7, 4.71), entrenched in a forgettable season, pitched well enough to be tabbed the winning pitcher after striking out four in his six inning, two-run performance to nail down the three-game sweep.

The A’s (51-33) did take some positives from Wednesday’s loss. Derek went 2-for-4 in his return from back stiffness that saw him sidelined since June 27. Yoenis Cespedes found himself penciled in as designated hitter after missing Tuesday’s game with tightness in his hamstring.

Coco Crisp and Brandon Moss accounted for the trio of A’s runs. Both hit solo home runs to right field off 2011 AL Cy Young winner Verlander in the first inning. Later, with the game well out of Oakland’s reach, Crisp scored on Moss’s seventh inning single off reliever Al Alburquerque. The Oakland first baseman’s performance Wednesday pushed him past an inactive Josh Donaldson (recipient of an off day from A’s Manager Bob Melvin) for the team lead in homers (19) and runs batted in (62).

Though the A’s struck early to stake Jesse Chavez to a 2-0 lead before he even took the mound, the Tigers struck often against the right-hander. Torii Hunter hit an RBI single off Chavez in the bottom of the first, then tied the game up on his run scoring base hit in the bottom of the third. Austin Jackson put Detroit ahead 3-2 in the home half of the fourth, plating Andrew Romine on a two-out single

The real damage came in six-run, three-pitcher sixth inning that saw the Motor City kitties score six runs. Chavez was lifted by Melvin in favor of Jim Johnson after walking the first two batters he faced. After retiring the first batter, Romine, on a sacrifice bunt, Johnson failed to record another out. Monday night’s hero Rajai Davis knocked a two-run single, Ian Kinsler singled in a run then 2013 American League Most Valuable Player Miguel Cabrera doubled in a pair to knock the 2012 All-Star from the game for Ryan Cook. In total, the beleaguered Johnson was responsible for four runs on four hits in his 1/3 of an inning.

Cook got the first batter he faced, J.D. Martinez, to ground out for the second out, but yielded a single to Torii Hunter that scored the inherited runner Cabrera. He then finished Nick Castellanos off with a pop-out, but by then the damage was done with Detroit sitting out front 9-2.

After facing the AL Central leaders Monday to Wednesday, the A’s head home to welcome the AL East’s top dogs. Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey and the Toronto Blue Jays flutter into town Thursday to open a four-game weekend series at O.Co Coliseum. Melvin has tabbed Sonny Gray to open the series in hopes of snapping the current three-game losing skid.

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.

Gray Gives Up Season High Four Runs and Relievers Give Up A Pair, A’s Lose 6-5

OAKLAND, CA - MAY 27: Miguel Cabrera #24 of the Detoit Tigers trots around the bases after hitting a solo home run off of Sonny Gray #54 of the Oakland Athletics in the top of the third inning at Coliseum on May 27, 2014 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA – MAY 27: Miguel Cabrera #24 of the Detroit Tigers trots around the bases after hitting a solo home run off of Sonny Gray #54 of the Oakland Athletics in the top of the third inning at Coliseum on May 27, 2014 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

By Kahlil Najar

OAKLAND – Sonny Gray gave up a season high four runs on eight hits and Luke Gregerson gave up the game winning run in the top of the 8th and the A’s (31-21) lost to the Tigers (29-19) 6-5. John Jaso hit his fifth homer of the year in the fourth and Jed Lowrie and Albert Callaspo contributed with a double each in the second to provide the majority of the A’s offense tonight. The A’s have now lost five of their last six games.

“I felt really good. That’s why it’s a little bit frustrating,” said Sonny Gray on his performance tonight. “You felt like you have good stuff, and then you just get hit around a little bit.”

Jaso echoed the frustrations of his pitcher, “It just seemed like his two-seamer wasn’t moving like it normally does and that’s where he ran into trouble.”

The first inning proved rough for Gray as he gave up a single, two doubles and a walk to the Tigers who took advantage and took a 2-0 lead on a single by Miguel Cabrera and a double by J.D. Martinez. The A’s got a pair of runs in the bottom of the second off of a double from Jaso and a double from Callaspo to tie the game at two. In the top of the third Cabreba hit his 8th homer of the year deep to left field and in the fourth Avila hit a double to drive in Jackson to give the Tigers a two run lead again and brought the score to 4-2.

In the bottom of the fourth, Josh Reddick scored on a balk from Scherzer and Jaso hit a two-run homer to give the A’s their first lead of the game 5-4.

Torri Hunter ruined the party in the top of the 7th as he hit a deep shot to center field that Coco Crisp wasn’t able to corral  and tied the game at 5.

Detroit took the lead for good in the top of the eighth when after a walk to J.D. Martinez, former Athletic Rajai Davis came in to pinch run. Davis advanced to second after a passed ball from Abad and then later on in the same at bat, Abad wasn’t paying attention to Davis and Davis stole third that surprised everybody.After Castellanos walked, Austin Jackson hit a ground ball to Lowrie who got the ball to second for one out but Jackson beat out the throw at first and was able to bring Davis home to secure the 6-5 Detroit win.

Tigers closer Joe Nathan said, “I think he caught the whole stadium by surprise. I know I missed it.”

A’s coach Bob Melvin said “That was the difference. He timed it perfectly. As soon as Norris let go of the ball he took off. I haven’t seen the replay yet if he had a chance to get it and throw him out, but that’s a big chance he took and it paid off.”

The A’s send Scott Kazmir (5-2) to the mound on Wednesday night with his 3.99 ERA in 13 career starts against Detroit against the Tigers Anibal Sanchez (2-2).

Tigers beat A’s, 3-2, in ALDS Game 1


By George Devine, Sr.

Last year, when Detroit played in a postseason game, it was their fourth straight loss to a Bay Area team, in this case San Francisco in the 2012 World Series. This year, the Tigers came to Oakland determined to show their stuff, and now they are 1-0 in the ALDS.

Before a national TV audience, and a sellout crowd of 48,401 in a balmy Coliseum, the defending American League champions took charge in the first inning. Austin Jackson led off with a double to right and advanced to third as Torii Hunter walked. Miguel Cabrera hit a grounder to center field and brought Jackson home, but then Prince Fielder hit into a 6-4-3 double play which scored Hunter. Victor Martinez hit one of Bartolo Colon’s pitches just above shortstop Jed Lowrie, grazing the tip of his glove, and reached second, then came home when Alex Avila singled to right.

The only other scoring of the evening was a two-run homer to left by Yoenis Cespedes with Brandon Moss on base. Cespedes had tripled to left in the second off Max Scherzer and is one of only two Oakland Athletics to hit both a triple and a homer in a postseason game, the other being Rickey Henderson in Game 4 of the 1989 World Series at San Francisco. Coco Crisp obviously was someone Detroit did not want to pitch to; he walked three times and sruck out once.

Colon is the loser (6 ip, 10 h, 3 er, 4 k) and Scherzer the winner (7 ip, 3 h, 2 er, 2 w, 11 k, 1 hr). Joaquin Benoit picked up the save,

The two teams meet again at 6:07 p.m. on Saturday, October 5, with Sonny Gray facing fellow RHP Justin Verlander.