The Detroit Tigers seemed to have the pieces in place for a big series with the Oakland Athletics. But coming into the series finale on Aug. 29, the Tigers had lost three straight at home to an Athletics team that had been on the ropes. To make matters worse, Detroit fell behind by 6-1 early and lost Miguel Cabrera to another injury -- yet one late swing from Torii Hunter gave the Tigers some much needed relief.
Until Hunter hit a two-out, three run homer in the ninth to steal a 7-6 victory, Detroit was having the worst possible day to end the worst possible series. 19-1 Max Scherzer had been touched for six runs in just five innings, with Cabrera adding injury to insult by hurting his abdomen in the fifth. He ultimately vowed he would play the next day -- and at the least, the Tigers won’t carry a four-game losing streak into that day.
The Athletics still led by 6-3 going into the ninth, yet closer Grant Balfour landed in trouble with just one out to spare. A walk and an RBI single by Victor Martinez set Hunter up to be the hero, as he saved Scherzer from his second loss and saved the Tigers from an embarrassing sweep.
Regardless of the losses, Detroit didn’t lose any of its lead in the AL Central, since the Cleveland Indians lost three games in a row themselves to the Atlanta Braves. In addition, the Tigers remain just a half-game behind the Boston Red Sox and Texas Rangers for home field in the American League, so salvaging this win made the series largely no harm, no foul.
The Athletics were the team that really needed the victories, as their three wins stopped a slump that had cost them control of the AL West. Oakland still remains 3 1/2 games ahead of the Baltimore Orioles for the second wild card -- and a win in the wild card game could set up a rematch with the Tigers in the ALDS.
After losing to the Tigers in Game 5 of last year’s ALDS in Oakland, the Athletics are already quite familiar with Detroit. This week gave Oakland a better outcome, although it could and probably should have been much better.