Oakland, Calif. — It was more the Bay Bridge of victories than the Golden Gate — a win that got the Tigers where they wanted to go instead of a glossy postcard.
But they’re not about to be choosy.
“We certainly needed it,” manager Brad Ausmus said.
That’s true. After the mess of the previous eight games, seven of which the Tigers lost — and many of the defeats downright ugly — the Tigers needed to win a game.
Plain and simple.
And win one they did, pushing across the tie-breaking run on Austin Jackson’s fielder’s choice grounder to short in the eighth for a 6-5 victory on Tuesday night over the Oakland Athletics.
On the play that made the difference, Rajai Davis scored from third after entering the game as a pinch-runner for J.D. Martinez who had drawn a one-out walk.
A passed ball moved Davis to second. He advanced to third on a brazen delayed steal, taking off from second when pitcher Fernando Abad paid no attention to him after taking a toss back from catcher Derek Norris.
“Everybody in baseball has to like a play like that,” first base coach Omar Vizquel said.
“I won’t lie, my heart stopped when I saw him take off,” Ausmus said.
But the camera caught you smiling, Brad.
“Because my heart had started back up,” he said.
Said Davis of the move, “My heart would have stopped, too, if I were Brad.”
Not only did Davis have the speed to pull off the play, though, he had the nerve.
“I think he caught the whole stadium by surprise,“ said Joe Nathan, who earned with 12th save with a scoreless ninth inning. “I know I missed it.
“His body is built for speed, and on top of that, he’s a ball of muscle.”
A bold ball of muscle.
“At that point in a tight game, with the pressure on, you have to be safe,” Davis said.
The steal was a beauty, but much of the game wasn’t — what with Max Scherzer struggling again. In six innings, he allowed five runs.
In the 13 innings of his last two starts, Scherzer has allowed 12 runs on 20 hits.
“I’m more frustrated with this one, though,” Scherzer said, “because I left more pitches up. I’m into more second-guessing in this one because of the pitches I threw.
“I’m going to need to study myself, and get some life back into my pitches.”
The win went to Al Alburquerque (2-1) in relief.
With the help of J.D. Martinez’s RBI double, Scherzer took a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the first — and also out of it, thanks to Coco Crisp trying in vain to steal third after a leadoff double.
The call at third was challenged and reviewed, but the ruling on the field was upheld.
It was still 2-0 when the A’s came up in the second, only to have a single and two doubles tie it.
Two runs off Scherzer fell short of the five he allowed in the second inning at Cleveland in his last start, but didn’t bring him all the way back to past effectiveness — or even close to it.
As another sign he’s just not right, Scherzer’s strikeout total was a season-low of four.
He got through the third without allowing a run, but it wasn’t a smooth inning. He hit John Jaso on the 11th pitch of a classic at-bat, then walked Josh Donaldson on a full-count pitch.
But getting out of the jam with two strikeouts and a grounder to third was more Scherzer-ian than anything that had happened earlier.
By then, the Tigers had taken a 3-2 lead on Miguel Cabrera’s eighth home run with one out in the third.
They made it a two-run lead on Alex Avila’s RBI double to deep left-center in the fourth that missed being a two-run home run by inches.
Ending the third in strong fashion didn’t carry over into the fourth for Scherzer, who balked in Oakland’s third run before Jaso gave the A’s a 5-4 lead with a two-run home run.
Torii Hunter’s seventh homer tied it with two outs in the seventh.
As did Scherzer, A’s starter Sonny Gray lasted six innings, but the matchup between the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner and an Oakland starter with an ERA of 1.99 fell far short of the duel some thought it would be.
But it was fascinating because of the steal that set up the winning run.
“They put me out there to score by getting close to home plate,” Davis said.
And score he did.