A's rally falls short against Tigers

A's rally falls short against Tigers

DETROIT -- When the A's put a crooked number on the scoreboard in any given inning, it usually takes them a while.

Jack Cust is the only legitimate power hitter on the team, so when Oakland puts up a five-spot without a long ball from Cust, as it did in the fifth inning Monday, it typically takes a bunch of hits, some walks, and maybe a little help from the opposing defense.

In contrast to the way the Tigers put up crooked numbers, it looks exhausting. What takes the A's a good 20 minutes to accomplish, Detroit does in a few mighty swings of the bat.

"That's the way we're built, and that's the way they're built," Cust said Monday after the Tigers' quick-strike offense overpowered the A's and their hunt-and-peck approach, 14-8. "I mean, how many home runs did they have in their lineup tonight, and how many did we have?"

Entering this three-game series between non-contenders, the answer to Cust's question was Detroit 124 (including 102 from the top six hitter in the order), Oakland 58 (or 31 without Cust's 27).

After the series opener, it was Detroit 129, Oakland still 58. The Tigers blew out to an early lead Monday and hung on for a victory at Comerica Park.

Gary Sheffield hit his 495th and 496th career homers, including a lighting bolt of a grand slam that helped chase A's rookie starter Gio Gonzalez in the second inning, leaving the A's to sift through the wreckage of their 36th loss in 50 games since July 11. Sheffield's 496th career homer also was the 250,000th in Major League history.

Oakland manager Bob Geren liked that his team rallied back from a 12-3 deficit to bring the potential tying run to the plate in the fifth inning. Cust liked that, too, and accurately noted that eight runs is a very good night for his team's oft-impotent offense.

But Cust seemed to know that he was rationalizing to a degree, and eventually he came clean, admitting that yes, it's annoying to work so hard for so long to score a few runs and see the other team match it within a matter of minutes.

"It is difficult when they come right back like that," Cust conceded. "A team like that can hurt you pretty quick."

"It's a lineup," Gonzalez said of the Tigers, "that lets you know you're not going to get away with anything."

Detroit let Gonzalez know right away, erasing the 2-0 lead that Oakland had grinded out in the top of the first inning with two home runs in the bottom of the frame.

Rajai Davis opened the game with a single and scored on a triple by Daric Barton, who scored when Kurt Suzuki hustled to beat out an infield single off Tigers starter Zach Miner after Cust had drawn a walk. Aaron Cunningham also drew a walk in the inning, loading the bases with two outs, but Eric Patterson flied out to strand everyone.

On charged the Tigers, who got a one-out single from Placido Polanco in front of Magglio Ordonez's 19th homer of the year, and after Miguel Cabrera flied out, Sheffield's first blast gave Detroit a lead it would never relinquish.

The A's went in order in the second, and the Tigers went back to work. By the time Gonzalez was lifted with two outs, the score was 8-2.

Gonzalez hit Mike Hessman with a pitch to start the half-inning, Brandon Inge followed with a triple, and with two out, another hit batter and a walk set the table for Sheffield, who cleaned it up with a line drive into the left-field bleachers that immediately qualified for the Backspin Hall of Fame.

One batter later Gonzalez was gone. His line for the night: nine runs (eight earned) on five hits, two walks and two hit batters with one strikeout over 1 2/3 innings -- by far his worst start since making his big league debut in early August.

"He just wasn't really getting his fastball where he wanted it," said Geren, who added that Gonzalez's spot in the rotation is safe for now. "He didn't command it well enough on either side of the plate. ... It was a rough night for him."

Poor command has been an issue for Gonzalez since he arrived in Oakland, and especially of late. All four of the homers he's allowed in his past 5 2/3 innings have been on pitches up in the zone, and he's walked or hit 21 batters over his past five starts (17 innings).

"Frustration does take over sometimes," Gonzalez said. "It's a tough experience, but I've got to keep working and learn from it."

The A's trimmed Detroit's lead to 12-8, then chased Miner in the fifth, when they banged out six hits and drew two walks. Jack Hannahan, who had doubled in a run in the third, contributed to the big rally with an RBI single, as did Patterson. Cliff Pennington drew a bases-loaded walk, and Davis capped the rally with a two-run single.

Cabrera hit his 33rd homer of the year in the third, off rookie Josh Outman, and Hessman capped the scoring for the night with a solo shot off Jeff Gray, who was making his big league debut.

"They obviously have a lot of power hitters over there, and they hit five home runs tonight," Geren said. "It's tough to overcome that."

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