Athletics 5, Tigers 4
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP)—Eric Chavez had no idea what kind of hitter he would be after missing a month with a broken hand.
He has quickly shown he’s the same player who earned a six-year contract extension worth $66 million during spring training—the biggest deal in Oakland franchise history.
The A’s ended a five-game homerless drought and won their third straight and fourth in five. Several Oakland players were dealing with minor muscle aches after playing 27 innings in 27 hours the previous two days, including Sunday’s 18-inning victory in Minnesota.
Chavez sent a 1-0 pitch from Tigers starter Jason Johnson into the right-field bleachers with one out in the third. Mark Kotsay hit a one-out double, then Mark McLemore reached on Omar Infante’s error at second.
It was Chavez’s 21st homer this year and eighth since coming off the disabled list July 9. He came in batting .385 lifetime with two homers against Johnson.
Chavez was concerned he wouldn’t be able to be more than a singles hitter after the injury—but that certainly hasn’t been the case. He has historically been a strong second-half player for a team known for its surges after the All-Star break.
“I’m pretty happy with the way everything’s gone,” Chavez said. “I couldn’t ask for much more. When I came back, I didn’t know if I was going to be able to hit. I was sort of having those doubts. I started squeaking out some hits and getting those loopers, getting myself some time to get my hand in pretty good shape. Right now, it’s 100 percent.”
The A’s are back home for a six-game homestand following a 7-4 road trip against the Rangers, Yankees and Twins, which some players considered their best road effort all year. Oakland extended its AL West lead to 2 1/2 games, its largest margin since June 18.
Because of all the extra work the bullpen got Sunday, manager Ken Macha was hoping Zito could go deep into the game—and the lefty delivered with seven strong innings.
Zito (8-8), who had his season-best winning streak snapped at three with a 5-1 loss to the Yankees last Thursday in New York, got through the first inning in 12 pitches with two strikeouts. He didn’t let a baserunner past second until Dmitri Young doubled leading off the fourth and scored.
Zito allowed three runs and five hits, struck out five and walked one.
“My last three games have been pretty good,” Zito said. “The runs I’ve given up haven’t been indicative of how I’ve pitched. My stuff’s been good.”
The Tigers loaded the bases against Justin Lehr in the eighth on two singles and a walk, then Rondell White hit a sacrifice fly to make it 5-4. Craig Monroe grounded into a double play to end the threat.
Octavio Dotel finished with a perfect ninth for his 10th save in 14 tries with Oakland.
Detroit got on the board on Monroe’s fourth-inning sacrifice fly, then Carlos Guillen had an RBI groundout in the fifth—a much different story than two days earlier when the Tigers hit seven home runs in an 11-9 loss to the Boston Red Sox.
Johnson (8-10) walked Scott Hatteberg for the third time to start the sixth, then gave up singles to Erubiel Durazo and Byrnes. Marco Scutaro doubled two batters later to chase Johnson, who lost his second straight start and third in five.
Johnson fell to 1-7 in 12 career starts against the A’s.
“I left a fastball up (to Chavez), just like I did most of the game, and he doesn’t miss pitches like that,” Johnson said. “That’s why he’s a good hitter. I didn’t throw a good pitch all night. From pitch one, I couldn’t find my release point. Everything I threw was up in the zone, and when I did get it down it was bouncing.
“Nothing worked and I paid for it.”
Oakland took a 1-0 lead when Hatteberg scored from third on Johnson’s wild pitch in the second.
Byrnes was caught stealing for the first time in 11 tries this season when he got thrown out at third in the sixth.
Chavez has gone 38 straight games without an error at third, one shy of his career best that he set April 27-June 27, 1999. … Oakland is 4-1 in a 10-game stretch against the AL Central. … Infante extended his season-best hitting streak to nine games with a third-inning single. … Tigers 2B Fernando Vina is out for the season with a partial tendon tear in his left knee. Vina has been on the DL since May 12. It hasn’t been determined if he needs surgery. … Durazo was 3-for-4 with a double.