With just a few weeks left in the regular season, the Detroit Tigers are going to have to make a push if they want to return to the playoffs.
Detroit (72-63) closed out August a season-high 5 1/2 games behind the Cleveland Indians for first place in the AL Central after losing 5-4 in 10 innings to the Athletics (67-69) on Friday. Cleveland won 8-5 over the White Sox earlier in the night.
The Tigers, who were last year’s AL wild card winners en route to the pennant, are in third place in the wild card race, 2 1/2 games behind the New York Yankees, who lost 9-1 to Tampa Bay.
“We had a chance pick up a game in the wild-card race and we let that slip away,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “I know Cleveland won. I don’t need to talk about that. If they lose, that’s a bonus. We have to win games. If we don’t win, it doesn’t matter what anybody else does.”
The Tigers scored two runs in the ninth to tie the game, but Dan Johnson hit an RBI double in the 10th for the win. Johnson also hit one of three Oakland home runs in the game.
The Athletics have won consecutive games after dropping five in a row.
Before the game, Oakland announced that six-time Gold Glove third baseman Eric Chavez, rookie outfielder Travis Buck and center fielder Mark Kotsay will miss the remainder of the season because of injuries.
Chavez will undergo surgery on his right shoulder on Wednesday, while Buck will also have an operation on Sept. 10 to tighten a loose ligament in his right shoulder. Kotsay, meanwhile, said he hopes to begin a strengthening program after the soreness in his back subsides.
“Despite the desires of all three players to get back on the field in 2007, we, as an organization, feel it is important for them to begin the healing process and to break the cycle of injuries that have plagued the A’s in 2007,” general manager Billy Beane said. “What is most important for Eric, Mark and Travis is that they start to look forward to a healthy 2008.”
The Tigers hope Verlander (14-5, 3.77 ERA) can help them bounce back from Friday’s loss. The right-hander, who leads the team in victories, has won three of his last four starts. Verlander gave up just three hits in seven innings against the Yankees on Monday in a 16-0 rout after allowing seven runs in four innings in a loss to Cleveland five days earlier.
“I think it was more mechanics,” Verlander told the Tigers’ official Web site. “I think that led to a big mental aspect of it. I worked hard between the last start and this one to get back where I was and I really felt like that led to some good things today.”
Verlander is 2-2 with a 2.87 ERA in five starts against the Athletics. This is his third time facing them this season after he split the two previous outings.
The Athletics will counter with Dan Haren (14-5, 2.72), who is looking to set a new career high for wins. Haren, the AL ERA leader, allowed five runs— three earned—and four hits in six innings on Sunday in a 7-4 loss to Tampa Bay. He struck out a season-high 10 batters and didn’t walk any, but gave up two homers.
“Haren threw the ball pretty well,” manager Bob Geren told the Athletics’ official Web site. “Ten strikeouts and he only had four hits. Unfortunately we gave up three homers today, I think that was probably the difference in the game.”
Haren is 1-3 with a 4.68 ERA in five starts against the Tigers. He has split two decisions versus Detroit this season.