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Game #134: A’s strike early, hang on late for 8-6 win

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A’s win series over Tigers in Detroit

Oakland Athletics v Detroit Tigers Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images

After four innings on Thursday, the Oakland A’s led 8-0. By the end, the tying run was at the plate.

Fortunately the bullpen held on, and the A’s emerged with an 8-6 victory over the Detroit Tigers in their series finale at Comerica Park.

*** Click here to revisit today’s Game Thread! ***

Midway through the afternoon, it appeared Oakland was on their way to a blowout win. They jumped all over Tigers starter Matt Manning, plating four runs in the 1st inning and then scoring again in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th to rack up an eight-run advantage. Meanwhile, A’s starter Frankie Montas was dealing, keeping Detroit off the board for the first four frames.

But then the tables turned. After Manning exited, the Tigers bullpen silenced Oakland’s bats the rest of the way, and the 8-0 lead began to slip. Montas allowed a pair of homers in the 5th and 7th, and reliever Deolis Guerra served up a three-run blast to cut it to 8-6.

In the 9th, Sergio Romo entered for the save. He struck out the first batter but walked the second. After watching a deep drive land just foul in the seats, he induced another to the warning track for the second out, and finally a groundout to seal the game.

A’s offense

Just like yesterday, Oakland’s offense struck early, but with two key differences. Today it was the entire lineup contributing, instead of just the same few hitters over and over. And today the eight runs were enough to withstand Detroit’s comeback attempt, whereas yesterday six runs didn’t cut it in a loss.

In the 1st inning the A’s put two runners on with two out, and they just needed a clutch hit to cash in. They got it from Jed Lowrie, who launched a three-run homer.

That’s an impressive dinger, fighting off a low-inside pitch for some opposite-field contact and watching it carry all the way over the wall.

A few pitches later, Mark Canha followed suit with his own opposite-field blast. Back-to-back homers!

In the 2nd inning, Starling Marte doubled in a run to make it 5-0.

In the 3rd it was Yan Gomes with a two-run double.

But the most fun run came in the 4th. Oakland put two more runners on base with two outs, and Detroit pulled Manning for a reliever. The A’s responded with a pinch-hitter, Khris Davis, in his first at-bat since rejoining the team yesterday.

On the first pitch Davis saw, he ripped the ball down the LF line for a double, with a monstrous 106.6 mph exit velocity. It got lodged underneath the wall in the corner, which prevented a second run from scoring, but he ended up on second base either way and earned himself an RBI.

Nine different A’s players got a hit and either scored and/or drove in a run. Lowrie’s 3 RBI led the way, and Canha scored twice including once on Gomes’ double.

That was the vibe in the 4th inning. The Tigers starter had been knocked out, and Oakland led by enough that they were pulling a regular (Lowrie) from the middle of their lineup. But it turned out the day was long from over.

Tigers comeback

The A’s never scored again. They put a couple runners on in the 5th, and one in the 6th, but then 10 straight batters were retired before a brief rally in the 9th that went nowhere.

The Tigers used that time to mount a comeback, just like they’d successfully done the night before. In the 5th they started hitting the ball hard against Montas, and one of them cleared the fence for a 447-foot homer. In the 7th he issued a leadoff walk, then got two outs, then gave up a two-run dinger.

  • Montas: 6⅔ ip, 3 runs, 7 Ks, 3 BB, 2 HR, 5 hits, 104 pitches, 91.3 mph EV

It was still a quality start, his ninth in his last 10 tries, and more importantly he pitched deep into the game after the bullpen worked overtime the last two nights. But it was time for the relievers to finish it off.

Guerra got the first call, but he allowed hits to all four of his batters — single, single, homer, single. Suddenly it was a close game.

Oakland switched to their setup crew, and Andrew Chafin got four outs to take it through the end of the 8th. It was up to Romo for the save.

The box score looks harmless enough, with a scoreless inning and one walk by Romo, but for a moment it looked like Jeimer Candelario had tied it with a deep fly to right. Fortunately the ball hooked foul, and then Candelario ripped another foul into the same RF corner, and then he tried left field with a 359-foot drive but it faded on the warning track and found a glove.

For Romo it was his second save of the year, but in the first one he allowed a homer and in the second one he nearly allowed another homer. He’s still clearly the right pitcher for the 9th inning at the moment, but it’s been an adventure so far.

Elvis defense

Also earning an honorable mention is Elvis Andrus. At the plate he registered two hits, including once in front of Marte’s triple to score a run. And on defense, the shortstop made a couple of excellent plays.

The Tigers almost scored in the 3rd. A one-out triple put a runner on third base, and the next batter hit a one-hopper toward Andrus. With a big lead already it wouldn’t have been unreasonable for the A’s to concede the run and get the easy out at first, but the runner had to hesitate to make sure the ball would land before being caught, and that gave Andrus time to throw home and nab him at the plate.

At the time it didn’t seem like much, maybe even overkill, but a few innings later it sure was nice that run hadn’t scored in retrospect.

Later, in the 8th, Andrus made another dazzling play. This didn’t directly prevent a run or anything, other than giving Chafin an out during a high-leverage situation, but it’s a gem of a highlight.

Great day by Elvis! And on the same afternoon that Khris Davis, whom he was traded for seven months ago, returned and notched two hits and an RBI.

A win is a win

Whew! The game got closer than expected, but this time the A’s held on. The pitching staff is becoming a concern, but at least the lineup broke out of their slump and had a good week. It’s a series win!