Tigers' offense falls shy in finale
Detroit no-hit through five innings, leaves bases loaded twice
DETROIT -- Curtis Granderson was certain Magglio Ordonez's ninth-inning drive was going past A's center fielder Rajai Davis, if not the center-field fence as well. Thus, Granderson rounded second and kept on running.
Three innings earlier, Mike Hessman expected Marcus Thames' line drive was going to get past third baseman Jeff Baisley, so he got a big jump off first.
Both choices lost out Wednesday. So did the Tigers.
There were plenty of bigger reasons behind Detroit's 5-2 rubber-game loss to Oakland, from the club's inability to punish wild right-hander Sean Gallagher to what looked like a tired Armando Galarraga. One could make the argument that Granderson and Hessman showed more life in their play than the Tigers did in general. And as they readily admitted, their runs would not have meant anything in the final result without others scoring behind them.
Given Detroit's struggles down the stretch, however, they became two of the day's symbols for the frustration that has been September.
"Obviously, those are the two most unlikely guys for that to happen," said manager Jim Leyland, who didn't blame them.
But then, Gallagher's effort seemed like one of the more unlikely ones for a no-hit bid that lasted into the sixth.
While Granderson's miscue accounted for the Tigers' final out, the first three outs for the club were all strikeouts following walks. Gallagher walked the bases loaded and struck out the side in the first inning. Detroit didn't put a ball in play until Marcus Thames' flyout to center leading off the second, and it was part of a string of eight straight batters Gallagher retired before he walked the bases loaded again in the fourth.
Even with Placido Polanco, Ordonez and Edgar Renteria out of the starting lineup, it was an odd and unlikely line. Six of the 18 batters Gallagher faced drew walks. Six others struck out, and the remaining six were retired.
Leyland did not put much stock into the idea of Gallagher being effectively wild. He left after four innings, having thrown just 44 of his 88 pitches for strikes.
"I thought [I] was going to play a lot of energy players out there today," Leyland said. "I didn't see that much."
He saw a base hit in the sixth, when Miguel Cabrera hit a liner back through the middle and into center field for a leadoff single in Jerry Blevins' second inning of work. Matt Joyce and Hessman, the latter of whom was pinch-hitting for Jeff Larish, followed with back-to-back ground balls through the infield, loading the bases with no one out.
Up came Thames, who worked his way out of an 0-2 hole to get a pitch to hit and smacked it to the left side as the runners, including Hessman, reacted.
"When I first saw it hit, I thought it was going to go through," Hessman said. "I thought it was low enough to. When [Baisley] caught it, I ended up too far off."
It took a diving effort for Baisley to catch it, then an acrobatic near-split from first baseman Daric Barton to double off Hessman. Still, even after Ryan Raburn singled in the remaining two baserunners, it was an extra out that took some of the momentum out of the rally.
"It was just a bad baserunning mistake," Hessman said.
By then, however, the A's already had a commanding lead to send Tigers starter Armando Galarraga (12-6) toward his second consecutive loss. Ryan Sweeney and Jack Cust hit back-to-back solo shots with two outs in the opening inning before three straight one-out singles in the fourth set up Aaron Cunningham's two-run single following Rajai Davis' run-scoring groundout.
Galarraga, like Gallagher, lasted just four innings, but gave up five runs on eight hits in the process. Detroit's American League Rookie of the Year candidate is winless in his past four starts since beating the Rangers on Aug. 19.
"He looks like he's starting to run on empty a little bit," Leyland said.
Galarraga admitted to some typical late-season body fatigue. Pitching-wise, however, he said he feels fine, but that a few pitches came back to haunt him.
"Your body starts to get tired," Galarraga said. "It's a long season, but there isn't any pain, any soreness. Everything feels good. I feel pretty strong. [My] velocity's right there. I can throw hard. [I] just [need to] locate my pitches."
Granderson thought he knew where Ordonez's ball was located in the ninth. His one-out single prompted Leyland to bring in Ordonez to pinch-hit for Ramon Santiago. Ordonez's drive to center put Davis on a full sprint behind him.
Granderson felt it was at least headed over Davis' head.
"Way over his head," Granderson said.
So did Ordonez, at first.
"It didn't make it to the warning track," Ordonez said. "The wind was blowing in today."
Just as Davis impressed with his speed during his game-turning triples Tuesday, his dash Wednesday might have changed the course of the contest. He ran down the ball as Granderson was heading toward third base, making him an easy target to double off and end the game.
"The ball wasn't carrying too well today," Granderson said. "It was a dumb mistake by me. My run didn't mean anything."
Neither, it turned out, did any of the eight walks issued by A's hurlers. None of them scored.
"This," Leyland said, "is a disappointing loss."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.