It was not always pretty, but the Tigers picked up a big 6-5 win in Oakland on Monday night behind some well-timed running by Rajai Davis.
Max Scherzer wasn’t great again. The Tigers staked him to leads of 2-0 and 4-2 and he gave both of them back. His pitch count was inflated and his fastball location wasn’t up to par, but he did get through six innings and allow five runs. Given how the Tigers’ rotation has been pitching lately, that’s an improvement. It would have been a quality start if not for a hanging changeup to John Jaso that ended up a two-run home run.
Luckily for Detroit, Sonny Gray wasn’t at his best either. He gave up two in the first and then a homer to Miguel Cabrera, as well as a near-homer to Alex Avila (it hit off the top of the wall). Gray only lasted six as well, giving up eight hits, but he departed with a 5-4 lead.
The Oakland bullpen is great on paper, but as has been the case surprisingly frequently this season, they couldn’t hold on. Torii Hunter hit a homer to dead center off Dan Otero to tie the game in the 7th. In the 8th, Fernando Abad issued a one out walk to J.D. Martinez, and this meant it was Rajai Davis time. Davis entered as a pinch-runner and advanced to second on a passed ball. He then took third while the catcher threw the ball back to the pitcher. The steal of third proved vital. Nick Castellanos drew a walk and Austin Jackson hit a grounder toward short. Shortstop Jed Lowrie had to range toward third to field it, ensuring that he couldn’t turn the double play and scoring Davis from third to give the Tigers a 6-5 lead.
As it turned out, Scherzer, Ian Krol (sort of), Al Alburquerque, Joba Chamberlain, and Joe Nathan combined to shut out Oakland over the final five innings. Alburquerque, Chamberlain, and Nathan each faced three hitters and retired all of them.
The Tigers can look to string a couple wins together again. They’ll send Anibal Sanchez – the only starter who has pitched well since the Tigers left Boston – to the mound tomorrow to face Scott Kazmir. A win would ensure at least a series split.