OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Sonny Gray had nothing to show for two strong pitching performances against the Detroit Tigers during the 2013 playoffs. A year later, Oakland’s promising young right-hander is still searching for an answer to the American League powerhouse.
Gray was roughed up for four runs in six innings – the first time in 11 starts this season he’s allowed more than three – and was knocked out of the game by the time pinch-runner Rajai Davis scored on a fielder’s choice in the eighth to lift the Tigers to a 6-5 win Tuesday night.
“It was definitely a battle tonight,” said Gray, who took an AL-low 1.99 ERA into the game. “I thought I was throwing some good pitches and they were putting good swings on the ball. They have a really, really good lineup and sometimes if you’re not spot-on, they’ll make it tough on you.”
The Central-leading Tigers did just that. They scored twice in the first inning then added another in the third on Miguel Cabrera’s eighth home run. Detroit tacked on a fourth run off Gray before Oakland came back to take a 5-4 lead.
The A’s bullpen couldn’t make it hold up.
Reliever Dan Otero gave up Torii Hunter’s game-tying home run in the seventh before Davis scored on Austin Jackson’s fielder’s choice groundout in the eighth to help Detroit end a three-game losing streak.
J.D. Martinez drew a one-out walk off Oakland reliever Fernando Abad (0-2). Davis was brought in to run and the speedy outfielder took second on a passed ball. He then stole third when A’s catcher Derek Norris was throwing the ball back to Abad.
After Luke Gregerson replaced Abad, Jackson hit a sharp grounder to Oakland shortstop Jed Lowrie, but the A’s were unable to turn the double play and Davis raced home with the go-ahead run.
“That’s my specialty,” Davis said. “I took the circumstances into consideration. No one was expecting it.”
The game began as a marquee matchup between Gray and Detroit starter Max Scherzer, but both were gone after the sixth.
Scherzer, the reigning AL Cy Young winner who beat the A’s in Game 1 of the ALDS last season, gave up five runs and eight hits in six innings. He struck out four, walked two and balked home a run.
Gray pitched with runners on base in nearly every inning, allowed four runs for the first time this season and struck out five before leaving with a one-run lead after the sixth.
“I’ve got to be a little bit better than that,” Gray said. “We’re able to put up five runs there. We just kept battling back, kept battling back and I wasn’t able to hold them.”
Detroit, which was shut out in the series opener, got to Gray when Hunter doubled with one out in the first and scored on Cabrera’s single up the middle. After Gray walked Victor Martinez on four pitches, J.D. Martinez lined an RBI double to right-center to make it 2-0.
Oakland tied it in the second on RBI doubles from Lowrie and Alberto Callaspo before Cabrera hit his tiebreaking home run in the third and Alex Avila doubled in Jackson in the fourth to make it 4-2.
Coming off his worst start of the season, Scherzer couldn’t make it hold up. He balked home a run in the fourth after giving up singles to Josh Reddick and Callaspo.
John Jaso followed with his fifth home run of the season, a two-run shot that gave Oakland a 5-4 lead.
Hunter’s home run tied it and set the stage for Davis’ heroics in the eighth.
“You always have to be ready for something like that with a guy that’s that fast,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “That was the difference.”
NOTES: Josh Donaldson has reached base in 42 consecutive games, the longest streak in franchise history since at least 1914, according to the team. … The game featured three potential All-Stars. Detroit 1B Cabrera and 2B Ian Kinsler, along with Oakland 3B Donaldson, are all leading at their respective positions in the first voting figures released by MLB. … A’s LHP Scott Kazmir (5-2) pitches Wednesday and has a 3.99 ERA in 13 career starts against Detroit. He’ll oppose Tigers RHP Anibal Sanchez (2-2).