Max Scherzer was roughed up, and Miguel Cabrera left with an injury. It made for a quiet scene in the ninth inning at a mostly empty Comerica Park.
Then Torii Hunter turned it around with one big swing for the Detroit Tigers.
Hunter hit a three-run homer with two outs in the ninth, lifting Detroit to a 7-6 win over the Oakland Athletics on Thursday that averted a four-game series sweep.
The celebration continued after the Tigers’ biggest comeback victory, with Cabrera vowing he would be in the lineup Friday when the AL Central leaders begin a three-game series with the second-place Cleveland Indians.
Cabrera departed in the fifth inning after hurting his abdomen while making an awkward slide trying to stretch a single into a double. But he insisted he would be able to play in Detroit’s next game.
”I’m OK,” he said. ”I’ll play (Friday) – don’t worry.”
The reigning Triple Crown winner limped off the field after aggravating a strain in his groin, abdominal and hip area that has bothered him for much of the month. He got two hits before the injury, increasing his major league-leading batting average to .359. He leads baseball with 130 RBIs, and his 43 homers trail only Baltimore’s Chris Davis.
”Every time something like that happens, we all get scared,” Tigers catcher Brayan Pena said. ”But then when we see him smiling and stuff like that after the game, everybody starts breathing again.”
The Tigers scored four times in the ninth against Grant Balfour (0-3). A two-out walk set up Victor Martinez’s RBI single, then Hunter connected for his 16th homer.
Scherzer gave up six runs in five innings, ending up with a no-decision instead of a loss.
”He still can go 20-1,” Hunter said. ”He was jumping up and down when I came upstairs. He hugged me so tight I couldn’t breathe. I’m pretty sure he’s excited.”
Scherzer’s bid to become the first pitcher in the major leagues with 20 wins this season didn’t look good at the start.
”I probably should’ve taken a loss,” he said. ”Torii bailed me out.”
The bullpen did, too.
Luke Putkonen pitched two innings of scoreless relief, Jose Veras was perfect in the eighth and Joaquin Benoit (4-0) gave up two hits in the ninth for the win.
Coco Crisp led off the game with a double and Jed Lowrie hit a one-out, two-run homer on a thigh-high, 92-mph fastball. Scherzer held the A’s to only one hit over the next two innings, but they built a four-run cushion in the fourth on sacrifice flies by Daric Barton and Eric Sogard.
Josh Donaldson hit a leadoff triple in the fifth and Brandon Moss homered deep into the right-field seats to make it 6-1.
A’s starter Bartolo Colon was in a position to win his 15th game. He allowed only one run and five hits without a walk over five innings in his first start since Aug. 13, when a groin injury landed him on the disabled list.
Prince Fielder hit a solo homer in the sixth off Jerry Blevins, who gave up another run and retired only one batter as the Tigers pulled within three.
Oakland’s Dan Otero and Sean Doolittle each followed with 1 1-3 innings of scoreless relief, setting Balfour up to pitch for his 34th save in 35 chances.
Balfour gave up a leadoff walk to Austin Jackson and walked Fielder with two outs. He then got ahead 0-2 against Martinez, but couldn’t get a third strike against him and that proved to be costly. The All-Star closer gave up two hits and walked two.
”It’s nice to win three games here when you’re looking at it coming in,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said, ”but certainly when you’re in position to win the fourth one, you want to win four.”
NOTES:Tigers manager Jim Leyland said the team has decided which players will be added to the roster when it expands to 40 players on Sept. 1, but declined to make any announcements. Leyland said the callups will happen in multiple groups, starting on Sept. 1 and continuing as minor league seasons come to an end. … Moss’ four homers in the series were more than he hit in three of his first five major league seasons. Moss didn’t reach double figures until last year, his sixth, when he hit 21 for Oakland.