First came an uncharacteristic walk issued by A’s closer Sean Doolittle. Then something even more unfathomable.
Former Athletic Rajai Davis delivered a walk-off grand slam off Doolittle to send the Detroit Tigers to a 5-4 victory in the opener of a three-game series at Comerica Park.
It was a heartbreaker for an A’s team that was riding high after four victories in a row. And for Doolittle, it was two consecutive blown saves from a reliever who had previously been lights-out for Oakland.
The bottom of the night began with the A’s leading 4-1. Doolitle allowed consecutive singles and then struck out Eugenio Suarez. He walked Austin Jackson – just his second allowed on the season - and then Davis went deep on a 1-0 pitch to end it.
The A’s had broken a 1-1 tie with three runs in the top of the eighth.
Starting pitching report
Scott Kazmir and Tigers starter Anibal Sanchez engaged in a rematch of their entertaining pitcher’s duel May 28 at the Coliseum, which the A’s won on Josh Donaldson’s walk-off three-run homer. Kazmir coasted through the first five innings Monday, holding Detroit to just three hits and looking sharper than his last outing at Citi Field, when he allowed three homers.
But armed with a 1-0 lead, Kazmir took the mound in the bottom of the sixth and piped a 2-2 pitch to Miguel Cabrera, who crushed a homer to tie the game. Then Kazmir walked J.D Martinez and retired Torii Hunter on a deep fly out to center. But after his first pitch to Nick Castellanos, manager Bob Melvin and assistant trainer Walt Horn visited Kazmir. On a 1-0 pitch, Kazmir threw a slider and stumbled out of his follow-through awkwardly. Melvin wasted no time and called for Dan Otero out of the bullpen.
Kazmir went 5 1/3 innings and struck out seven. He allowed four hits and three walks, and the only run he allowed came on Cabrera’s homer. In Cabrera’s previous at-bat, he appeared to exchange words with Kazmir after he struck out to end the third inning. It appeared Cabrera might have thought Kazmir quick-pitched him on the third strike.
Dan Otero and Luke Gregerson did well to set the table for Doolittle, who gave up a one-run lead Saturday at Miami and has now converted 11 of 14 save opportunities.
At the plate
The A’s three eighth-inning runs wasn’t too much ofa surprise given how they’ve operated this season. They came in leading the American League with 130 runs scored from the seventh inning on. Brandon Moss had a go-ahead double that scored Yoenis Cespedes to break a 1-1 tie. Then Jed Lowrie singled in two runs to make it 4-1. Lowrie had three RBI on the night.
In the field
A’s manager Bob Melvin made a defensive lineup switch before the game, moving Brandon Moss from first to right field and Stephen Vogt from right to first. He cited the spacious outfield at Comerica Park, and Moss’ more extensive outfield experience.
Vogt’s inexperience at first shown through on a couple of would-be pickoff plays. Kazmir had Ian Kinsler picked off in the third, but Vogt fumbled the ball on the exchange while trying to make a throw to second. A similar play unfolded in the fifth, and Vogt fired a throw high and wide to second, and Rajai Davis slid in safely with a stolen base.
Lefty Brad Mills (1-0, 4.35) will match up against Rick Porcello (10-4, 3.41) in Tuesday’s 4:08 p.m. game.