This trip to Detroit had potential disaster written on it for the A’s, who wobbled into the Motor City having lost two of three to Baltimore and facing four games against the team with the best record in the American League.
Instead, the A’s have taken it to the A.L. Central-leading Tigers on consecutive nights. They jumped on Justin Verlander for five runs over five innings Tuesday and notched a rain-shortened 6-3 victory at Comerica Park.
Verlander entered the night 6-0 with a 0.63 ERA in his last six decisions against Oakland, including two victories in the 2012 A.L. Divisional Series. But as they did against Anibal Sanchez on Monday, the A’s jumped on the board with two runs in the top of the first. Left-hander Tommy Milone (10-9) steadied himself after a rough first inning and collected his first victory since July 27.
The A’s had the bases loaded and no outs in the top of the sixth when umpire crew chief Gary Darling halted the game with rain falling steadily. With five innings completed, it was an official contest. After a delay of more than an hour, the game was called.
The A’s have scored 14 runs in two games against the pitching staff that entered Tuesday with the lowest ERA in the A.L.. They’ve secured at least a split of this four-game set. They trail Tampa Bay by a half-game for the A.L.'s top wild card spot and lead Cleveland by three games for the second spot.
Starting pitching report
After watching Verlander (12-10) heave 44 pitches in the top of the first, Milone didn’t find things any smoother in the bottom half. Staked to a 2-0 lead, he gave up three runs and took 34 pitches to retire the side in a first inning that took 45 minutes to complete. He walked two and gave up two hits, but he should have been out of the inning earlier if not for Alberto Callaspo’s two-out error that let the third run in. But the lefty settled in and retired 13 of the final 15 hitters he faced. The third inning was important for him. With the score 3-3, Milone put runners on the corners with two outs but got Omar Infante to ground into a fielder’s choice to escape the jam.
Milone wound up allowing just the three runs (two earned) over five innings, giving up three hits with three strikeouts and three walks. Recovering from the rocky first was important, considering Milone’s spot in the rotation could be on thin ice with Brett Anderson a starting option when he comes off the disabled list. It could have gotten real ugly early, but Milone steadied the ship.
The rainy weather resulted in a night off for the relief corps.
At the plate
The A’s followed a winning recipe from the night before – jump on the Tigers starter early, drive up his pitch count, and then continue doing damage against Detroit’s middle relief. They forced Verlander to throw 44 pitches in the first inning alone – the most pitches the former Cy Young winner has ever thrown in a single inning in his career – and took a 2-0 lead on Jed Lowrie’s bloop double.
After Detroit’s three-run first put the home team ahead, Yoenis Cespedes drilled a double to left in the third that scored Brandon Moss to tie it. It was an important at-bat for Cespedes, who snapped an 0 for 15 streak and had struck out in his first at-bat against Verlander. With rain starting to fall hard in the fifth, Moss broke a 3-3 tie when he drove an 0-1 pitch to the opposite field in left-center for a two-run homer. Seth Smith added a solo shot – his first homer since June 16 – in the sixth off Bruce Rondon to make it 6-3.
Tuesday’s outing marked the eighth time this season that Verlander has surrendered five or more runs in a game.
In the field
Callaspo let Omar Infante’s slow grounder roll under his glove for a two-out error in the first that let Detroit’s third run score. It seemed costly at the time, with Milone laboring through a long inning. It wound up having no impact on the final outcome, but the A’s have still committed 20 errors over their past 25 games.
Dan Straily (6-7, 4.56) is 0-5 with a 5.20 ERA in seven starts since the All-Star Break. Those five losses are tied for the most in the majors since the break. In Straily’s defense, he’s been supported by just six runs total over those seven starts, but he needs to show he can avoid the big inning. He’ll be opposed Wednesday by Doug Fister (11-6, 3.54) in a 4:05 p.m. matchup.