The A’s set the tone early Monday night, and it was no surprise whose lead they followed. Coco Crisp led off the game with a double to right field off Detroit Tigers starter Anibal Sanchez, and he and his teammates never let up offensively in an 8-6 A’s victory to open a four-game series at Comerica Park.
Crisp went 3 for 6 with two RBI, including his fourth homer in five games, and he finished just a triple short of the cycle.
It wasn’t so much stealing the show as it was showing the way. The A’s collected 12 hits overall and scored runs in six different innings. Seven different players scored runs and six notched at least one RBI.
That helped the A’s hold off a three-homer attack from the Tigers, who also stranded the bases loaded twice late in the game. Seeing Crisp do damage was no surprise. He’s now 9 for 18 on this road trip, an encouraging sign for the A’s considering how instrumental the switch hitter usually is to their offensive success.
But first baseman Daric Barton, called up from Triple-A earlier in the day, was a spark at the bottom of the lineup with two run-scoring singles. It was a much-needed ensemble performance from a team that has struggled over the second half to come through with runners on base.
Starting pitching report
A.J. Griffin (11-9) pocketed his first victory since July 29, but it was hardly smooth sailing. His season-long bugaboo – the long ball – bit him once again. He gave up two-run homers to Omar Infante and defending Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera, both of which tied the game after the A’s had built a lead. Griffin now has allowed a major league-high 32 home runs.
He was lifted with no outs in the sixth, having allowed four runs on seven hits. He struck out four and walked one. He had the right idea for a game plan, moving his fastball around the strike zone to complement his off-speed stuff. But he gave up Infante’s line-drive homer on an 0-2 fastball.
After getting Cabrera looking in his first at-bat and then retiring him on a groundout, Griffin fell behind 3-1 to Cabrera in the fifth and caught too much plate with a curve. Cabrera showed why he might win another Triple Crown, mashing an opposite-field two-run shot that tied it 4-4.
The relief corps gave manager Bob Melvin some anxious moments. But Sean Doolittle entered with the bases loaded in the seventh and retired Prince Fielder on a fly out to keep it a 7-4 game. After Victor Martinez homered in the eighth, Ryan Cook loaded the bases but struck out Torii Hunter to keep it an 8-5 game. Grant Balfour allowed a run in the ninth but closed it out.
At the plate
With the score 2-2 in the third, Crisp turned on a full-count pitch and cleared the right field wall for his 100th career homer.
Barton bounced a single through the hole on the left side to make it 4-2 in the fourth.
After Cabrera’s homer tied it, the A’s kept working away. Barton grounded a go-ahead single up the middle in the sixth and Crisp would punch an RBI single to left to make it 6-4. Tigers starter Anibal Sanchez (11-8) entered with a 2.45 ERA but the A’s did well to chase him after five innings and keep the pressure up against Detroit’s bullpen.
Alberto Callaspo knocked in a run to make it 7-4 and Jed Lowrie’s run-scoring double in the eighth made it 8-4.
In the field
Lowrie isn’t known for his defense at shortstop, but he made a backhanded stop that started a nifty 6-4-3 double play to end the sixth.
Brandon Moss, shifting from first base to right field with Josh Reddick on the disabled list, made a noteworthy play earlier in that inning. Victor Martinez led off with a drive high off the right field wall, and Moss played the ball perfectly, spun and got the ball back to the infield quickly. With Martinez caught admiring his near-homer, the deep blast wound up being a single.
Crisp dazzled with the glove as well as the bat, ranging left and making a diving catch to rob Andy Dirks in the eighth.
A crowd of 34,778 was announced at Comerica Park on a warm night that included a light rainfall.
Tommy Milone (9-9, 4.30) will oppose Justin Verlander (12-9, 3.68) in Tuesday’s 4:05 p.m. matchup. Verlander is 8-5 with a 2.32 ERA in 14 career regular-season starts against Oakland. Still fresh in everyone’s mind, of course, are the two dominant outings the right-hander posted in last year’s A.L. Divisional Series, when he beat the A’s in Game 1 and then shut them out in the deciding Game 5.