OAKLAND, Calif.--Rajai Davis stole a 6-5 win for the Detroit Tigers against the Oakland A's on Tuesday in every sense of the word.
The former Oakland A's outfielder, on second base with one out and pinch hitter Nick Castellanos batting against reliever Fernando Abad in the eighth inning, set up the go-ahead run. Davis waited until catcher Derek Norris was throwing the ball back to Abad. Davis took off, stealing his 16th base.
Moments later, with Castellanos having walked, A's reliever Luke Gregerson hoped to get an inning-ending double play. He got the grounder he wanted, but it wasn't hit close enough to shortstop Jed Lowrie, and the A's were only able to get one out as Davis scored to break a 5-5 tie.
Without the steal, the game would have gone to extra innings. Instead, the A's (31-21, have lost five of their past six games.
The pitchers with the best (Sonny Gray, 1.99) and seventh-best (Max Scherzer, 2.59) ERAs in the American League seemed to be an ideal setup for a pitcher's duel. For both men, however, they seemed to be battling themselves as much as the other team.
Four of the first five Tigers' batters reached base against Gray, Torii Hunter starting a two-run rally with a double, scoring on Miguel Cabrera's single and Cabrera coming around when J.D. Martinez doubled.
The A's dug in against Scherzer in the second, an infield single by Yoenis Cespedes and a rocket double to center by Jed Lowrie chasing a run home. One out later, Alberto Callaspo doubled and the game was tied.
The trouble for the A's was that it did not remain that way for long. One out into the third inning, Cabrera launched a homer out to left and the Tigers were back in front, 3-2.
The good news from the A's point of view was that they were making Scherzer work, the prime culprit being John Jaso. The catcher looked at a combined 20 pitches in his first two at-bats, a walk and a hit-by-pitch on a 3-2 count. In neither case could the middle of the lineup bring him home.
Gray stumbled again in the fourth. One out into the inning, Austin Jason singled and Alex Avila doubled off the top of the wall in left-center, putting Oakland in a 4-2 hole. It was the first time in 11 starts this season Gray had allowed more than three runs.
Once again, Scherzer wasn't able to keep the A's from hurting him. And he didn't help himself much, either. Josh Reddick and Callaspo opened the fourth with singles, and soft pickoff toss toward Reddick at third was ruled a balk, Reddick scoring and Callaspo moving to second base.
Jaso, who had done nothing but look at pitches his first two times up crossed up Scherzer by jumping on a 1-0 pitch and lining it over the right field wall for a 5-4 A's lead. It brought Jaso's average at the Coliseum this year to .333, and four of his five homers have been hit in Oakland.
Gray was now in position to get the win if the Oakland bullpen could shut the Tigers down, but Detroit wasn't having any of that. With Dan Otero pitching and two outs in the seventh, Hunter blasted his seventh homer over the wall in center to tie the game at 5-all.
--The A's found out early in the day they'd done well in the first round of fan voting for the July All-Star game. Josh Donaldson led all vote-getters at third base, catcher Derek Norris ranked third and DH Brandon Moss and shortstop Lowrie both were fifth. "If we have one player on the All-Star team, it should be J.D.," Moss said. Donaldson (.276, 12 homers, 38 RBIs) said he wasn't going to get carried away this early in the process. "It's great; so far, so good," he said. "At this time last year I wasn't on the ballot. It shows you where things have come. It would definitely be pretty awesome for me."
--Reliever Ryan Cook seems to be close to a return from the disabled list, where the A's have had to park him since May 8 with a strained right forearm. The right-hander threw 22. "Honestly, I'm thoroughly surprised at how good it felt today," Cook said. "It's one thing to be confidence (that the injury was minor), but it's something else to have things respond the way you want them to feel."
--A.J. Griffin, who had Tommy John-style ligament replacement surgery at the end of April, made an appearance in the A's clubhouse Tuesday. He was wearing an imposing-looking brace that can lock the arm in place or can be opened to allow for flexibility, which is the way Griffin had it while meeting and greeting his teammates. Griffin, who is expected to be able to pitch again in the first half of the 2015 season, also way styling a new haircut, his long surfer-length locks a thing of the past.
--Nick Punto wasn't in the starting lineup, but Melvin said the infielder was healthy enough to be available in the later innings Tuesday. Punto had not appeared in any of the last three games while nursing a calf injury.
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