Baseball / Sports

The Detroit Tigers' J.D. Martinez makes a face after being called out at first in the second inning against the Oakland Athletics at O.co Coliseum in Oakland, Calif., Wednesday, May 28, 2014. (Susan Tripp Pollard/Bay Area News Group/MCT)

A's use Donaldson's walk-off homer to rally past Tigers, 3-1

OAKLAND, Calif.--Close your eyes, allow your mind to wander and revel in the thought as the A's and Detroit Tigers do their part to foster ideas of an October playoffs matchup once again.

Sure, it's not even June but it's never too early to get excited about the prospect of the two American League powers squaring off in a win-or-go-home series.

Lest anyone forget what that feels like, the Tigers and A's treated 15,590 fans to another sneak peek Wednesday night in a game that had all the makings of a postseason classic, with the A's prevailing 3-1 on a Josh Donaldson three-run, walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning.

"For a fan, that was a fun game to watch right there," A's starter Scott Kazmir said. "Throughout the whole game, Anibal and I, it just seemed like we were just battling it out, out for out."

Kazmir and counterpart Anibal Sanchez went toe to toe for almost the entire game, with neither pitcher giving the other team much reason to believe.

"The last two games of this series definitely had that playoff energy, that electricity, that feel," A's closer Sean Doolittle said. "When you're going up against a team like that, it's fun. This could be a big character-building win for us."

Wednesday's game showed why the A's and Tigers lead their respective divisions and why many expect them to meet again in the fall. Both teams waiting for the other to blink.

For the Tigers, that meant a fastball that Kazmir left over the plate in the fourth inning. And Torii Hunter was ready to pounce on it, which he did for a home run that broke up the scoreless game.

One run isn't much, of course. But when the Tigers have Sanchez on the mound, sometimes that's plenty. Sanchez confounded the A's for 81/3 innings. He didn't allow a hit until the fourth. No A's runner made it past first base until Eric Sogard doubled in the sixth.

The A's finally got Sanchez out of the game in the ninth inning after he allowed a one-out double to Coco Crisp on his 111th pitch of the night.

Tigers manager Brad Ausmus summoned closer Joe Nathan at that point. John Jaso followed with a line drive that hit off third baseman Nick Castellanos' glove and continued into left field. Crisp advanced to third on the play.

Donaldson promptly deposited Nathan's next pitch well over the left-field wall. It was just a matter of if the ball was fair or not. It turned out to be plenty fair, which set off a wild A's celebration.

"He just kind of missed in that area where I could hit it," Donaldson said of Nathan's slider. "Thankfully, I didn't miss it."

Donaldson's second career walk-off home run gave Kazmir his sixth victory in eight decisions. Kazmir pitched a complete game for the first time since July 3, 2006.

A's manager Bob Melvin said this was just another in a long line of well-pitched games by Kazmir. What set it apart is that Kazmir didn't have much room for error.

"When you're pitching against a guy who is throwing the ball that well and you're not scoring any runs, you know you have to be pitching perfect," Melvin said. "He was close to that."

Kazmir said he fed off the intensity of the game and how well Sanchez pitched.

"You have to pitch like it's 1-0," Kazmir said. "You say that whenever you have the lead but that was the case (Wednesday) night. So, every pitch was crucial. You had to focus every pitch, every inning."

Much as you might expect in a playoff game.

-- Jaso was in the starting lineup despite being drilled in the left forearm by a pitch from Max Scherzer on Tuesday.

Jaso got hit in the third inning, but he seemed to laugh off the incident, even though he sported quite a bump.

"I was surprised how he continued in the game and really didn't even feel it much at all, catching, hitting, the whole bit," Melvin said.

In fact, Jaso did just fine after getting drilled. He hit a home run in his next at-bat and showed no lingering effects behind the plate.

"He made some really good blocks and some of them after he got in the arm like that," Melvin said.

--Reliever Eric O'Flaherty (elbow) is scheduled to pitch an inning or so in a simulated game for Triple-A Sacramento on Thursday, Melvin said. O'Flaherty has been in rehabilitation since surgery on his left (throwing) elbow last year. Melvin said O'Flaherty will join the A's in late June or early July, if all goes well.

-- Melvin said backup infielder Nick Punto (calf) was available to play Wednesday.

(c)2014 Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.)

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Distributed by MCT Information Services

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