Oakland, Calif. – A single missed strike. A blooped fly that fell for a hit. A booted ground ball. Remove any of the three and it might have been Sunday for Mike Pelfrey, who seemed on his way to a first pitching victory for the Tigers.
But when one of those sixth-inning mishaps that seem to have been written into the Tigers’ script for 2016 arrived, the A’s instantly scored three runs and hung on to beat the Tigers, 4-2, at Oakland Coliseum.
Pelfrey had pitched four-hit, shutout baseball through five innings and by far was pitching his best baseball since the Tigers signed him last autumn to a two-year deal.
His teammates, meanwhile, had chopped into the bedeviling Rich Hill for a couple of runs, thanks to RBI singles from Victor Martinez and James McCann.
But in the sixth, Pelfrey, who hadn’t yet walked a batter, put leadoff batter Jed Lowrie aboard. He got a double-play grounder, then allowed singles to Danny Valencia and Khris Davis.
It shouldn’t have mattered. Pelfrey got the next batter, Yonder Alonso, to swat an easy ground ball to Ian Kinsler at second. Kinsler gloved it, but lost a handle in the process and the ball squirted away as Valencia scored to make it a 2-1 game.
Pelfrey’s mistake in walking Lowrie was repeated when he walked Marcus Semien. It ended his day and brought on left-handed reliever Justin Wilson, which induced A’s skipper Bob Melvin to order up pinch-hitter Billy Butler.
Butler hit a fly ball to center that Cameron Maybin thought had been hit at least to medium-depth center. But the ball fell in front of a tumbling Maybin for a bloop single that scored two runs that put the A’s on top, 3-2, and ended any victory thoughts for Pelfrey.
The A’s added another run in the eighth against Mark Lowe, which was more than plenty on a day when the Tigers did way too little against Hill and three A’s relievers.
They got only five hits, none from the first three batters in manager Brad Ausmus’ order.
The Tigers had counted on starting a six-game West Coast run with a series knockoff of the last-place A’s.
Instead, they lost two of three games, have slipped a game beneath .500, and now move to Anaheim, Calif., for a three-game set against the Angels, who have beaten the Tigers in 18 of their last 21 duels.