Looking to snap out of a losing skid of three games and having lost 7-of-8, the Detroit Tigers were in need of a win. They got that victory in come-from-behind fashion with single runs in the seventh and eighth innings, topping the Oakland Athletics 6-5. The slumping A's have now lost 5-of-6.
Neither starting pitcher was around to get a decision. Max Scherzer's outing was a near carbon copy of his last appearance. He battled with his command, had a couple of very rough innings (which included the balking in of a run) yet managed to pitch six innings. Scherzer allowed five runs on eight hits, walking two and striking out four.
The Tigers tagged A's starter Sonny Gray with his worst start of the season (though it's still better than what the Tigers' rotation has over eight of the last nine games). The young right-hander allowed four runs and eight hits, striking out five and walking one in six innings of work.
The Tigers' overworked bullpen came through with three scoreless innings. Al Alburquerque (W, 2-1) retired the side in the seventh after taking over for Ian Krol, giving him the victory. Joba Chamberlain and Joe Nathan set down the final six A's batters in order, Nathan earning his 12th save.
The Tigers' offense took an early lead, watched Scherzer cough it up, but came back late to win the game. Miguel Cabrera had two hits, a home run and two RBIs for Detroit. Torii Hunter had a double and the game-tying home run in the seventh. J.D. Martinez added two hits and an RBI.
Special notice goes to Rajai Davis for his pinch-running appearance. The AL leader in stolen bases manufactured the game-winning run by taking second on a wild pitch, stealing third and scoring on Austin Jackson's RBI ground ball.
With the win, the Tigers are back to ten games over .500 at 29-19. Their lead in the AL Central remains at five games over the White Sox. Their winning percentage now .604, Detroit is the only team in the AL playing over .600 ball on the season.
One out into the game, the Tigers had themselves something rare as of late - a LEAD.
Facing Sonny Gray, Torii Hunter's liner cleared a leaping Josh Donaldson at third and into the left field corner for a double. Hunter scored on Miguel Cabrera's single to center, RBI number 43 on the season (MLB.com video).
After Victor Martinez took a four pitch walk, J.D. Martinez's line drive found the right center field gap, good for two bases and an RBI. Coco Crisp was able to cut the ball off and save one run, but Cabrera scored while Martinez the Younger and Elder stood on second and third.
That's where the rally stagnated. The slumping Don Kelly (.216/.326/.243 in May) and Austin Jackson (.216/.260/.318 in May) both bounced out, ending the inning.
The Tigers were 0-for-2 with MISP (Martinez's in scoring position), but had gotten off to fast start with an early 2-0 lead.
Crisp led of the bottom of the first by doubling off Max Scherzer, then proceeded to do the Tigers a massive favor. He immediately tried to steal third, only to be thrown out by Alex Avila. Despite replay being inconclusive at best and the runner out at worst, A's manager Bob Melvin doubled down on Crisp's mistake by challenging the call.
As it should have, the call stood. The A's lost both a runner in scoring position and had burned their challenge for the remainder of the game.
Scherzer walked John Jaso, but retired the next two A's to pitch out of further trouble. But Scherzer couldn't pitch out of trouble in the second.
Yoenis Cespedes led off the inning with a lead off single. He would score when Jackson somehow managed to play Jed Lowrie's line dirve into an RBI double. Lowrie drove a liner to center, Jackson taking an awful angle on the ball. He was unable to cut it off, allowing the liner to roll to the wall. If Jackson makes the play, Cespedes is held at third. He didn't, Cespedes was able to circle the bases and for some reason, Lowrie stopped at second when he should have been on third.
Lowrie not making it to third became moot when Scherzer served up his third double in eight batters to Alberto Callaspo, who slashed an outside breaking ball into the left field corner. Lowrie scored, knotting the game at 2-all.
So much for that fast start.
Cabrera looked awful against Gray in falling behind in the count 1-2. He swung through a 95 MPH fastball for the first strike, and the swing on the second strike had the look of a batter completely and utterly confused. But Cabrera took a normal Cabrera swing on the next pitch in the strike zone, launching a 91 MPH fastball over the wall in left.
Cabrera's eighth home run of the season and 43rd RBI allowed Detroit to retake the lead at 3-2 (MLB com video).
Bottom of three, Scherzer was waging war with his command and losing, his pitch count paying the price. He drilled lead off man Jaso in the left forearm, leaving it the size of Popeye's misshapen appendage. Scherzer went to a full count on Josh Donaldson before walking him.
Thankfully, the good Scherzer returned, and just in time. He struck out Brendan Moss and Cespedes, then ended the inning on Lowrie's slow roller to third. The only damage done was to Scherzer's pitch count, which now stood at 66.
Top of four, the Tigers extended their lead. Jackson singled with one out, then scored on Avila's double off the top of the wall at the 388 foot mark in left center. The unlucky Avila missed a home run by mere inches. The Tigers left Avila on second, Gray retiring Andrew Romine and Ian Kinsler to end the inning.
As for Scherzer, he was allowing base runners by the basketful and getting more and more flustered. For the fourth straight inning the lead off man reached, Josh Reddick singling. He advanced to third on Callaspo's single.
Scherzer gave the the A's a run when he was called for a balk when throwing to third in hope of keeping Reddick close. As to why it was a balk, no one seemed to realize why, save for home plate umpire Angel Campos. Just as the Supreme Court characterized pornography as "I know it when I see it," Campos detects balks in the same way. But in this case, the pitcher is not allowed to throw a pick off attempt to a fielder who is not at the bag. In this case, Kelly was stationed several feet away from third.
Scherzer proceeded to give away the lead, as he could not retire Jaso with two out. The A's catcher yanked a line drive around the right field foul. pole, a visibly upset Scherzer could only watch. Jaso's fifth home run of the season gave the A's back the lead at 5-4.
To add insult to injury, this game is on pace to finish around 2 am— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) May 28, 2014
To add more insult, Martinez the Elder reached base with a two out single in the fifth, then go himself thrown out trying to advance on a ball in the dirt. Jaso continued to kill the Tigers, corralling the loose ball (which bounced right back to him), then nailing Martinez in a bang-bang play.
And the fan base decided it would be a good time to melt down.
Apparently we’re blaming the plane too.— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) May 28, 2014
In a stunning development, Scherzer retired the side in order in the fifth. It was the first half inning without a base runner.
At that point, the game picked up from what had been a snail's pace, Gray and Scherzer avoiding trouble in the sixth.
Gray was pulled after six innings, replaced by Dan Otero. Two down, Hunter drilled a monster shot to dead center field, clearing the wall at the 400 foot mark as Crisp crashed into fence in a futile attempt at a catch. Hunter's seventh home run of the season re-tied a back-and-forth game at 5-all (MLB.com video).
On a night where the Tigers really needed Scherzer to deep into the game, he was pulled after six innings and 107 pitches. Ian Krol entered, threw four balls to walk pinch-hitter Derek Norris and was summarily pulled.
It took until May 27th, but Ian Krol now has more walks than home runs allowed.— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) May 28, 2014
Al Alburquerque took over for Krol, retired the next three A's to send the game into the eighth tied at 5-all.
One down, Fernando Abad on the mound, Martinez the Younger drew a walk. Rajai Davis entered the game as a pinch-runner. But he didn't have to steal second, Abad advancing him on a wild pitch.
Amazingly, Davis then caught the A's napping. Pinch-hitting Nick Castellanos at the plate having taken strike two, Norris casually tossed the ball to Abad. Davis took off, and was sliding into third by the time Abad knew what had happened.
Castellanos worked a full count walk, which ended Abad's night. Luke Gregerson took over to face Jackson.
Gregerson induced sent a ground ball into the hole at short. The only chance the A's had to keep the run from scoring was to try and turn two, but Jackson beat the relay. Davis crossed the plate on Jackson's RBI ground ball to give the Tigers back the lead at 6-5.
Given a one run lead in the bottom of the eighth, the game was now in the hands of the back end of the Tigers' bullpen. Joba Chamberlain took over in the eighth, tossing a 1-2-3 inning.
Gregerson did the same for the A's in the ninth, retiring the Tigers in order.
It was down to the bottom of the ninth, three outs and Joe Nathan on the mound for Detroit.
Kinsler had an off night at the plate, but made a marvelous defensive play for the first out. He raced into short center, making a back hand, over-the-shoulder grab to take a hit away from Eric Sogard.
Kinsler! Ian now eligible for the save after an over-the-shoulder catch.— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) May 28, 2014
Cabrera flashed more Detroit leather, making a diving stop of Crisp's ground ball, then flipping to Nathan for the second out.
Nathan went to a full count on Norris to ratchet up the fan base nerves. But he would go down swinging to end a 1-2-3 inning, the game and a losing streak.
Your final score is Tigers 6, A's 5.
Do you smell something familiar?
The Tigers fanbase hasn’t been this happy about a win since October 14th, 2006. Or so.— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) May 28, 2014
Game three's pitching matchup has the Tigers' Anibal Sanchez (2-2, 2.83 ERA) taking on A's left-hander Scott Kazmir (5-2, 2.56 ERA).
Injuries and ineffectiveness had Kazmir on his way to baseball's "what might have been" scrap heap, before resurrecting his career with the Indians last season. He started this season on fire, finishing April at 4-0, 2.11 ERA. He's regressed to the mean somewhat this month, but has still been effective with a 3.38 ERA in four May starts.
Going into tonight's action, Sanchez is the only Tigers starter to have recorded a victory since May 18. On May 23, Sanchez pitched a full seven innings for the first time this season, holding the Rangers to two runs on five hits.
First pitch at The O.co is scheduled for 10:05 PM.
WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH:
A's fans are in desperate need of a better fitting wardrobe. That cannot be unseen!
John Jaso deserves hazard pay after being drilled by a Max Scherzer fastball.
John Jaso’s arm is swelling faster than Phil Coke’s ERA.— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) May 28, 2014
Josh Reddick's walk up music is "Careless Whisper" by Wham! Seems A's fans get a little too much into 80's ballads and sax solos.
STREAKS AND STATS:
By throwing out Coco Crisp in the first inning, Alex Avila now leads the AL with 19 runners caught stealing.
Miguel Cabrera hit his 373rd career home run in the third. He's one behind former Tiger Rocky Colavito for 72nd in MLB history.
Tigers starting pitchers have recorded one quality start in their last nine games. That was by tomorrow night's starter, Anibal Sanchez, last Friday.
With his home run in the sixth, Torii Hunter now has 23 career tying or go-ahead homers in the seventh inning or later. His last was August 29, 2013, walking off against the A's.
Over his past four games, Nick Castellanos has walked five times. He had just four in his first 38 games.
Rajai Davis stole his AL leading 16th base of the season in the eighth.
Joba Chamberlain pitched a scoreless eighth inning, and has not allowed a run in 13 of his last 14 outings. During that stretch, he has a 1.32 ERA.
Miguel Cabrera: Just another game - two hits, one a home run, and two RBIs. Cabrera is second in the AL with 44 RBIs.
Torii Hunter: Two hits, both for extra bases and an RBI. His seventh inning home run was a huge momentum changer, tying the game at a point when it felt as if the Tigers were doomed to extend their losing streak.
Rajai Davis: Manufactured the lead run in the eighth with speed. Entering the game as a pinch-runner, Davis advanced to second on a wild pitch, took third on a delayed steal and scored on a ground ball.
Al Alburquerque, Joba Chamberlain and Joe Nathan: A lights out night for back end of the bullpen. After Ian Krol walked the one batter he faced, it was nine up, nine down, game over.
Max Scherzer: Everyone expected Scherzer to improve over his last outing of allowing seven runs in seven innings. He did, but barely. Five runs in six innings is still an uncharacteristic start, and forced an overworked bullpen to pitch the final three innings.
Andrew Romine: Four game hitting streak ended in ignominious fashion, 0-for-4 with two strikeouts.
Chicken Littles: Come on, folks. This Tigers team is too talented to remain in a funk forever. The starting rotation is in a slump, but they won't pitch batting practice for the rest of the season. Going by the reaction midway through tonight's game, you would have thought the Tigers were on the verge of their season was already over...IN MAY. One week of bad baseball does not end a season. Get a God damn grip, people! It's exhausting to live in constant fear of a collapse from game-to-game-to-game.
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GAME 47 PLAYER OF THE GAME:
Rookie reliever Corey Knebel's second big league appearance went far better than his first, the only Detroit pitcher to not allow a run in a 10-0 loss. Knebel tossed a pair of scoreless innings to easily secure his first career BYB PotG.