A's walk off vs. Tigers for second time

A's walk off vs. Tigers for second time

OAKLAND -- Baseball can be a mean old cuss of a game, cruel and unfair like an Algebra teacher who cares not that you missed the two weeks of class before the midterm with mono.

But the game has a sense of humor, too, as evidenced by the bottom of the 11th inning on Tuesday night at McAfee Coliseum: bases loaded, two out and A's designated hitter Jack Cust at the plate.

Often cited for his cherubic likeness to Babe Ruth, Cust really does look like a youngish George Herman. He doesn't get cheated with his cuts, either. Oakland's leading home run hitter in 2007 (26) and 2008 (nine) and also the team's current leader -- by wide margins -- in walks (44) and strikeouts (62), Cust often leaves the batter's box with one of those three outcomes.

When Cust dug in against Tigers right-hander Freddy Dolsi nearly four hours into the second game of a three-game series, the smart money would have been on a walk. After all, Dolsi had just issued the 22nd free pass of the night, tying an Oakland record for combined walks in a game.

So what did Cust do? After taking two blow-your-house-down hacks and missing mightily, the big fella -- 6-foot-1, 235 pounds -- dribbled one up the first-base line and outraced the similarly speed-challenged Miguel Cabrera to the bag for a walk-off infield single that gave the A's a 5-4 victory.

"That was going back to my 19-year-old days," said Cust, a 29-year-old New Jersey native. "When you smell a hit in that situation, you find powers you never knew you had."

In finding that extra burst, Cust gave Oakland its third consecutive victory and second walk-off win in a row. Bobby Crosby's long single in the bottom of the ninth Monday capped a crisp, well-played series opener. Cust's short single capped a long, messy affair.

"That was the most unusual game," A's manager Bob Geren marveled. "We threw way too many balls and we swung at way too many balls."

But they also got one of their season's sweeter moments when Eric Chavez, in his fifth game back from a four-month stint on the disabled list that bridged the end of last season and the start of this one, ripped a game-tying, three-run homer in the fifth inning.

After crossing home plate, Chavez veered off course on his way back to the dugout, found his toddler son, Diego, in the first few rows of seats and gave him a two-handed, finger-wagging wave accompanied by the kind of giddy, we're-the-only-two-people-in-the-world-right-now smile that had to move any father who saw it.

"That was awesome," said Cust, who has his own youngster at home. "I was so pumped up for him. You could just see how happy he was."

Chavez also turned in one of the many strong defensive plays that kept the game from being a complete aesthetic disaster, making a tough pickup and an off-balance throw to start an inning-ending double play in the sixth with the bases loaded and the Tigers leading, 4-3.

Oakland rookie center fielder Carlos Gonzalez and catcher Kurt Suzuki teamed up to stop another Detroit run from scoring when Gonzalez threw out pinch-runner Clete Thomas in the top of the eighth. And finally, shortstop Bobby Crosby's diving catch with runners at second and third ended the 11th for winning pitcher Chad Gaudin, who tossed two shutout innings after closer Huston Street pitched a perfect ninth.

"We should've scored 10 runs," said Tigers manager Jim Leyland, whose club drew 12 of the 22 walks. "We just looked like we have no clue on how to knock in a run."

The A's tied it up on Travis Buck's RBI single in the bottom of the eighth, but they also left two runners in scoring position when Tigers center fielder Curtis Granderson made like Superman to steal a bloop hit to shallow right-center from Daric Barton.

"As ugly as the game was, there were some pretty nice plays," Chavez said.

It was ugly because of the walks. A's starter Dana Eveland issued a career-high seven in 4 1/3 innings while digging Oakland a 3-0 hole, and Detroit starter Dontrelle Willis walked five over four frames.

"I wouldn't say it was a beautiful win, but a win is a win," Cust said. "We did what we needed to do."

Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.