The A’s appeared to add the cherry on top of what was already an attention-grabbing series at Comerica Park.
After knocking around 19-game winner Max Scherzer on Thursday and taking a three-run lead into the ninth inning, they lost 7-6 when the Detroit Tigers’ Torii Hunter hit a three-run walkoff homer against closer Grant Balfour. Instead of completing a stunning four-game sweep, the A’s walked off the field stunned themselves.
The A’s (76-57) had beaten the best that Detroit had to offer from its vaunted starting rotation over the three previous days, including A.L. ERA leader Anibal Sanchez on Monday and 2011 A.L. MVP Justin Verlander on Tuesday. On Thursday, they saddled Scherzer with six runs and denied him his 20th victory.
The A’s led 6-3 when Balfour took the mound in the bottom of the ninth, but the closer’s command was off from the get-go. He walked two and allowed Victor Martinez’s RBI single. Then Hunter drove a 1-1 pitch over the wall in left-center for a three-run shot to send the home crowd into a frenzy. The A’s still won three of four from one of the American League’s powerhouses. They continued swinging the bats well, rapping out 12 hits and getting another homer from red-hot Brandon Moss. But they’ll have to shake the hangover from this one as they prepare for a 10-game homestand that starts Friday.
Starting pitching report
Oakland welcomed back All-Star right-hander Bartolo Colon from the disabled list, and the 40-year-old gave up one run over five innings. Colon’s velocity had dipped in two poor starts before going on the D.L. His fastball hovered between 88 and 91 mph Thursday, topping out at 93. But he hit his spots well with the fastball, an encouraging sign for the A’s since the right-hander relies on that pitch so much. He didn’t issue a walk and threw 50 of his 73 pitches for strikes. Colon allowed a couple of harmless two-out singles in the first two innings. He ended the third by striking out Miguel Cabrera on three pitches, getting him to swing through a 90 mph third strike. He had runners on the corners with one out in the fourth when Brayan Pena hit a sacrifice fly. Coco Crisp made a nice running catch in right-center that kept Colon out of further danger.
Sean Doolittle did well to enter the seventh and retire Hunter on a groundout to strand two runners and preserve an A’s lead. But the wheels came off for Balfour in the ninth. It was just his second blown save in 35 opportunities.
At the plate
The A’s did what few teams have done this season against Detroit – wear out their starters and get to the bullpen early. Scherzer hit the 100-pitch mark by the fifth inning Thursday and didn’t come out for the sixth.
The Tigers’ rotation entered this series with the best ERA in the A.L., but none of their four starters made it to the sixth inning.
Continuing a trend from the first three games, the A’s jumped out to an early lead. Coco Crisp led off the game with a double and scored on Jed Lowrie’s two-run homer to right. Alberto Callaspo and Seth Smith began the fourth with hits, then Daric Barton and Eric Sogard delivered back-to-back sacrifice flies for a 4-0 lead. That highlighted how much better the A’s were this series driving runners home when they had the chance. They were 21 for 53 (.396) with runners in scoring position in the four games. Moss was 7 f or 14 with four homers and 10 RBI for the series and The A’s collected 12 hits Thursday. For the series, they scored 34 runs and banged out 52 hits.
In the field
Coco Crisp had a nice running catch to highlight the defensive day for Oakland.
The A’s open a 10-game homestand Friday with the Tampa Bay Rays coming to the Coliseum. Jarrod Parker (10-6, 3.58) has won each of his last eight decisions and has pitched at least eight innings in his last three starts. He’ll be opposed by left-hander David Price (8-5, 3.28). First pitch is 7:05 p.m.