Tigers 5, Athletics 2
“I just like to set the tone for the guys behind me,” Granderson said. “Any way I can get on. That’s the big thing I like about watching (Seattle’s) Ichiro (Suzuki). He gets on there some way and gets things started. I didn’t smash the ball but I got on base and sure enough Polanco executed behind me.”
Tata, brought up to take the injured Kenny Rogers’ spot in Detroit’s rotation, allowed two runs and six hits over seven innings in his first major league start, following eight relief appearances last year. A 16th-round draft pick in 2003, Tata walked two and struck out five, including Nick Swisher three times.
“I’ve always started and I’ve always wanted to start. Last year was something completely out of the blue,” Tata said. “I felt like I had a free pass last year. This time it was a process of working myself back and getting to this point. I feel like I really earned it this time. I can sleep easy knowing I did my part in the minor leagues to get here.”
Tata (1-0) became the first Tigers’ starter to win a game since Andrew Miller beat Minnesota on July 18. Chad Durbin pitched the eighth and Todd Jones worked the ninth for his 28th save in 33 chances.
“He really came through big for us tonight,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said of Tata. “He looked like a starting pitcher tonight.”
Jones also provided the obligatory shaving cream in the face treatment on Tata during a postgame interview.
“He cut the ball well and he had the curve going,” A’s manager Bob Geren said of the rookie. “He hit his spots.”
The victory gave Detroit a one-game lead over idle Cleveland in the AL Central.
Joe Blanton (8-8) gave up five runs and nine hits in 6 2-3 innings for Oakland, which lost its fourth straight. He struck out five and didn’t walk a batter. Blanton, who has walked one or less in each of his last 10 starts, lost his fourth straight decision.
Granderson and Polanco have eye-popping career numbers against Oakland. Granderson’s .353 average (18-for-51) is his best against any team except St. Louis, while Polanco’s .500 mark (36-for-72) is his best against any team.
“(Polanco) is a good hitter,” Blanton said. “He just kind of stands up there and plays pepper. He’s a guy you really can’t strike out. He’s going to put the ball in play. He’s the kind of guy who seems to place it out there.”
Both teams figured to challenge for division titles and on June 15 they were within a game of each other. The A’s were at their season high of 37-29, while the Tigers were a game better at 38-28.
Detroit has won 23 of 39 games since then, while the A’s have lost 28 of 40.
Blanton gave up consecutive singles to Granderson and Polanco to open the game, with Granderson scoring on Gary Sheffield’s double-play grounder.
“I think Kotsay’s ball might have hit off my glove,” Tigers first baseman Sean Casey said. “If I had any vertical or range I would have had it.”
Granderson and Polanco both singled to start the sixth. Granderson was running on Polanco’s single and scored when Kotsay bobbled the ball in center field for an error. With one out, Magglio Ordonez singled home Polanco.
Granderson and Polanco added RBI singles in the seventh.
3B Brandon Inge doubled in the third to extend the Tigers’ streak for consecutive games with an extra-base hit to 66. … The A’s went five days without a roster move for the first time since May 5-10. … The Tigers last visited Oakland during the regular season on July 5, 2006. … Granderson and Polanco have a combined .593 average (16-for-27) against Blanton. … A’s DH Mike Piazza has an eight-game hitting streak. … The Tigers improved to a major-league best 35-23 on the road.