Programming note: A’s-Tigers coverage starts Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. with A's Pregame Live on CSN California.
Ben Zobrist came through Tuesday with the kind of game-changing hit that’s been missing for the A’s most of this season.
The bullpen held down a lead after Oakland surged ahead in the late innings, ensuring the Detroit Tigers wouldn’t get their hopes up.
Starting pitcher Kendall Graveman wobbled during a three-run fourth but steadied himself, survived six innings and walked away with the victory.
All of the above components played a role in the A’s 5-3 come-from-behind victory at Comerica Park. And to be sure, Oakland wouldn’t have bagged the ‘W’ without all three.
Things are coming together nicely on all levels as the A’s have won seven of their past 10.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Zobrist's slam powers A's past Tigers]
But what’s most notable is the way the big-time performances are blending together from all facets of the team.
The starters are pitching deeper into games, and, for the most part, holding the opposition down. That’s giving the offense a chance to come through with the kind of timely hits that were missing for much of the first two months. And once Oakland gets a lead, the bullpen – not being worked as hard thanks to the starting pitching – is slamming the door in the late innings.
After taking three of four from the New York Yankees to close out a winning home stand, the A’s kept the momentum going in Tuesday’s opener of a six-game road trip.
Now for the reality check: Even after this 7-3 stretch, the A’s are still 12 games under .500 at 21-33. But lately they’ve been finding ways to pull games out rather than inventing ways to lose them. On Tuesday, Zobrist’s grand slam in the seventh turned a 3-1 deficit into a 5-3 lead. He turned on an 0-1 pitch from Tigers reliever Angel Nesbitt and lined a bullet into the right field seats (which was snagged by a very young Tigers fan that is a must-see highlight).
“To be honest, I came into today searching a little bit, not feeling too great,” Zobrist said. “I had a good talk with Bushie (Darren Bush), our hitting coach. I felt a lot better during batting practice, and during the game I was just trying to get a ball in the middle (of the plate) and put a good swing on it. That changeup was left right in the middle and I was able to hit it hard enough to get it out.”
It was exciting, dramatic, and the kind of moment you just couldn’t see this team producing two weeks ago. But it wasn’t just a matter of Zobrist, the first-year Athletic, single-handedly deciding to step up and save the day. It simply plays into the vibe surrounding this team right now.
Before, it seemed like the hitters were pressing too much because they weren’t sure the pitching would get it done, or vice versa. Lately, it seems the A’s are coming up with big individual moments because players are confident that their teammates will do the same thing.
That belief can be a powerful thing, and the A’s are playing like a team that believes it will get the job done, even if it can’t be sure who will play the role of hero.
“From where we’re at right now, we’re at the bottom looking up,” Zobrist said. “We’ve got to play well every day, not try to do too much. Graveman kept us in the game. The bullpen shut ‘em down after we got the runs. If we can play like that, the way we’re capable of playing, we’re gonna come up out of this.”