Spencer Torkelson breaks through with bases loaded as Detroit Tigers beat Oakland A's, 2-0

OAKLAND, Calif. — Detroit Tigers first baseman Spencer Torkelson sawed off an inside fastball in a key situation.

Torkelson, less than 24 hours after striking out with the bases loaded in the ninth inning of a three-run loss to the Oakland Athletics, delivered with the bases loaded for the first time this season in the third inning of Sunday's 2-0 win. His single helped the Tigers split the four-game series at the Oakland Coliseum.

The 2020 No. 1 overall pick improved to 1-for-12 with the bases loaded this season. Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez walked four batters but fought to complete seven scoreless innings and preserve the early two-run advantage.

The Tigers (73-83) finished with a winning road record, at 41-40, for the first time since 2016.

"It's important to recognize it and understand it's a step along the way to play better outside of your home uniform and in some hostile environments," Hinch said. "I really appreciate the fans showing up this weekend and providing an environment for the last few games this series."

Tigers first basman Spencer Torkelson hits a two-run single against the Athletics in the top of the third inning on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2023, in Oakland, California.
Tigers first basman Spencer Torkelson hits a two-run single against the Athletics in the top of the third inning on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2023, in Oakland, California.

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The Tigers took a 2-0 lead with Torkelson's two-run single with one out in the third inning and never looked back. A double from Parker Meadows, a walk from Matt Vierling and a single from Andy Ibáñez put Torkelson in a position to drive in runs against left-hander JP Sears.

Here's what Torkelson, who also struggles with runners in scoring position, said in the visitor's clubhouse after his bases-loaded strikeout in the ninth inning of Saturday's 4-1 loss: "Not try to hit a five-run home run, but just take your hit. That's something I'll change."

On Sunday, Torkelson — instead of swinging for the fences — fought to bloop an inside fastball into right field for a two-run single. An ensuing walk from Miguel Cabrera loaded the bases again, but Sears escaped further damage by retiring Jake Rogers and Tyler Nevin for the second and third outs.

Sears allowed two runs on six hits and two walks with seven strikeouts over five innings, throwing 58 of 97 pitches for strikes. He relied on his four-seam fastball and changeup while mixing in a handful of sliders and sweepers.

The Tigers missed out on their chance for additional runs off left-handed reliever Kyle Muller in the eighth inning. After two singles and a wild pitch, Meadows grounded out with two runners in scoring position.

Ibáñez, Torkelson and Meadows logged two-hit performances. Both Torkelson and Miguel Cabrera struck out swinging against right-handed reliever Zach Neal to strand Vierling on third in the top of the ninth.

Cabrera received a standing ovation from the fans before and after his final plate appearance in Oakland, a swinging strikeout. There are six games, all in Detroit beginning Tuesday, remaining in the 21st and final season of his MLB career.

Escaping trouble

Rodriguez, once again, didn't have the best versions of his five pitches due to below-average command. The Athletics took advantage with at least one baserunner in six of five innings but couldn't score.

The 30-year-old threw seven scoreless innings — for the sixth time — with five strikeouts despite five hits and four walks. He has walked at least four batters in four of his past six starts as a result of his location issues.

"We wrote his name in the lineup on Opening Day," Hinch said. "That signals we expect a lot out of him, and then we've leaned on him when he's been healthy to do exactly what he did today."

Tigers pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez pitches against the Athletics in the bottom of the first inning on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2023, in Oakland, California.
Tigers pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez pitches against the Athletics in the bottom of the first inning on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2023, in Oakland, California.

Rodriguez, who entered Sunday's start with a 4.94 ERA in 13 starts since returning from a finger injury, maneuvered his way out of trouble throughout his 25th (and next-to-last) start of the season.

The first real threat from the A's occurred in the fourth inning, thanks to Esteury Ruiz's double to left field and Zack Gelof's six-pitch walk. Ruiz swiped third base, his American League-leading 65th steal of the season, then tried to score on Brent Rooker's bouncing ground ball to shortstop Javier Báez.

Báez charged to field the ball and immediately fired it to catcher Jake Rogers at home, where he applied the tag to keep Ruiz from scoring. The next batter, Aledmys Diaz, grounded into a Báez-led double play to end the fourth.

"He got some big double plays," Hinch said. "We played good defense. He threw some really important pitches to get out of a couple of the jams. He missed just enough bats and kept the ball on the ground enough. But that's what these guys do. You expect at least six (innings), and he expects at least seven or longer."

In the first inning, Ruiz stole second for his 64th steal but was thrown out by Rogers trying to take third base.

The difficulties continued for Rodriguez in the fifth inning, when Shea Langeliers ripped a changeup at the bottom of the strike zone for a double to left field. Báez continued his elite defensive performance, however, by cutting down Langeliers at third base on a ground ball by the next batter, Ryan Noda.

"It's playing clean," Hinch said. "That is something we preach a ton. We don't always do it, but when we do, we look like a pretty good team. ... Javy at shortstop was incredible. He made some instinctual plays, made some routine plays, and then made the great play."

Still, Rodriguez ended up loading the bases because of a single by Carlos Perez and a two-out walk to Lawrence Butler. He worked out of the bases-loaded jam when Ruiz grounded into a forceout to Báez to end the fifth.

Rodriguez had a walk and a wild pitch in a scoreless seventh inning.

Facing Oakland, Rodriguez threw 64 four-seam fastballs (64%), 14 changeups (14%), nine sinkers (9%), eight cutters (8%) and five sliders (5%). His fastball usage was up significantly from that of his first 24 starts (44%), and he generated five of his 10 whiffs with his fastball.

Rodriguez threw 61 of 100 pitches for strikes.

He has a 3.40 ERA in 25 starts.

Final six outs

The Tigers relied on right-handed relievers Jason Foley and Alex Lange for the final six outs. The plan was for each pitcher to throw one inning until Foley gave up a single to Rooker with two outs in the eighth.

That sent Tigers manager A.J. Hinch calling on Lange for a matchup with pinch-hitter Seth Brown.

Brown struck out swinging on a curveball below the strike zone for the third out in the eighth. Lange returned for the ninth and surrendered a leadoff double to Langeliers. He sent down the next three batters for his 25th save.

Contact Evan Petzold at or follow him @EvanPetzold.

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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Tigers top Oakland A's, 2-0, on Spencer Torkelson single