Detroit — Six whippings in a row, and for the Tigers, this one stung doubly.
They had just romped to a 4-1 lead in the seventh Monday at Comerica Park when Nick Castellanos buried a 99-mph fastball from A’s reliever Lou Trivino high and deep to right for an opposite-field, three-run homer that looked like a nifty way to end a five-game skid.
Joe Jimenez and Shane Greene would seal it. Surely.
Except they didn’t in a game that saw the A’s strike four times in the final two innings for a 5-4 victory and another helping of Tigers heartburn.
Jimenez, who hadn’t allowed a run since May 31, was asked to pitch overtime and got whacked for three runs in the eighth and a 4-4 score.
Greene spelled Jimenez late in the eighth, then returned for the ninth, just in time to have Jed Lowrie rip into a cutter and drive it down the line and over the wall for a homer that turned the Tigers’ pre-Detroit River fireworks party into yet another tumble.
“Tough loss for us,” said Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire, who believed Jordan Zimmermann had thrown enough pitches (79) through five innings and that his bullpen, even after a pummeling the past week, would hold up Monday.
“We had to use our closer in the eighth and our set-up guy in the seventh,” Gardenhire said. “We couldn’t pinch off a hitter at the end.”
Jimenez seemed a safe wager in the seventh after Louis Coleman got into some mud, getting socked for a tying homer by Stephen Piscotty ahead of a single and a bloop double on which neither Leonys Martin nor Dixon Machado could make a play. Jimenez arrived and the A’s, despite a follow-up walk, didn’t again score.
Until the eighth, anyway, when Mr. Invincible returned and reminded a crowd of 19,127 that he’s still human.
A hit batter, a double, a sacrifice fly, a bloop single, and a laser two-run double to left-center by No. 9 hitter Franklin Barreto, off a Jimenez slider, and it was goodbye, Tigers lead.
“He just hung a slider,” Gardenhire said of Jimenez’s last pitch. “He’s been really good with it, staying down.”
“Joe’s been good for a month-and-a-half,” said Castellanos, who was busy after Monday’s game trying to calm his clubhouse mates after a week of losing games. “It’s just part of the growing process.”
Greene finished the eighth with a strikeout. He began the ninth with another whiff. And then came a down-and-in cutter to the left-handed mashing Lowrie.
“Just kind of spun,” Gardenhire said. “He was trying to get it in the dirt. Just didn’t get it there.”
Greene understands home runs aren’t supposed to happen against closers. Not seven times when it’s still June.
“Right now, they’re leaving the yard,” said the owner of a 3.68 ERA, which isn’t what the Tigers were expecting from a man with an arm, and with pitches, as good as Greene’s.
Zimmermann exited Monday’s game after five innings and 79 pitches.
He had a shutout rolling. He had allowed four hits. He had walked a single batter and struck out three.
Gardenhire, though, believed he had seen enough when Zimmermann was making only his second start following a long month-plus on the disabled list. And, perhaps, when the fifth had not gone all that smoothly: two singles and a line-out to deep center.
“I felt I could keep going,” Zimmermann said afterward. “There’s nothing I can really say. I still felt strong.”
Zimmermann said he was ready to pitch the sixth but that he was told the bullpen would take over.
“I’ll pitch until they take the ball from my hand,” Zimmermann said. “I know the bullpen’s a little beat up. I would like to go longer.”
The Tigers had 10 hits Monday. But there were too few of the game-changing variety, apart from Castellanos’ seventh-inning bomb to right field in the seventh, his 10th of the season.
"Absolutely,” Gardenhire said. “We had plenty of chances.”
■ The Tigers left a runner at third base in with two gone in the second.
■ They abandoned runners at third and second base with one out in the sixth when JaCoby Jones popped out and Grayson Greiner grounded out.
■ They wasted runners at third and second with two gone in the eighth, with the ground-rule double law costing them a run.
It happened when, with Jose Iglesias at first and one gone, Martin drove a pitch to the center-field warning track and into the hedges. It would have been an easy RBI triple for Martin. But it instead left him blockaded at second, and Iglesias at first.
Niko Goodrum had a chance to score Iglesias, but he instead chopped a grounder to Lowrie as the A’s pulled in their infield.
Their best shot came in the sixth after Victor Martinez hit a one-out single and Castellanos followed with a double past Lowrie, the A’s third baseman.
Jones swung at the first pitch from A’s starter Edwin Jackson, the ex-Tigers starter and ex-everybody's starter who is now working with his 13th big-league team. Jackson, who turns 35 in September, jammed Jones with a fastball that ended up as a soft pop-floater to the second baseman.
Jones was pummeling himself after the game, Castellanos said, which cued Castellanos to remind him one failed at-bat was neither an indictment nor anything new in baseball.
“I said, ‘Dude, I’ve left five times as many men on third base as you,’” Castellanos said. “What everybody needs to know is, this (losing) doesn’t last forever.”
A’s at Tigers
First pitch: 7:10 Tuesday, Comerica Park
LHP Blaine Hardy (3-1, 3.30), Tigers: A guy from the bullpen becomes one of the steadiest, sturdiest starters in manager Ron Gardenhire’s rotation. Expect another gallant effort against the A’s.
RHP Frankie Montas (4-1, 2.41) A’s: He’s been part of two three-way trades (including the Jose Iglesias-Avisail Garcia trade in 2013).