Kazmir’s arm, Donaldson’s walk-off HR carry A’s over Tigers
OAKLAND, Calif. — After being shut down by Anibal Sanchez all night, the Oakland Athletics were happy finally to get a chance at Detroit’s bullpen in the ninth.
Josh Donaldson hit a game-ending three-run homer off Joe Nathan with one out in the ninth and Scott Kazmir pitched his first complete game in nearly eight years to help the A’s rally for a 3-1 victory over the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday night.
"It’s always a bit of a relief," A’s manager Bob Melvin said. "But it’s not like Nathan is a day at the beach either. But certainly when a guy has had your number for that long for that period of time, you feel like now here is a new breath of life for us."
Sanchez was in command all night, allowing only two hits as he took a shutout bid into the ninth inning before Oakland rallied to hand the Tigers their eighth loss in 10 games.
Coco Crisp got it started with one out when he hit an opposite-field double just inside the third-base line that ended Sanchez’s night after 111 pitches.
John Jaso greeted Nathan with a single off third baseman Nick Castellanos‘ glove to set the stage for Donaldson.
"The big out there was getting Jaso," Nathan said. "You get him and it changes everything. It changes how you approach Donaldson. It changes how you pitch to him. It gives me a chance to play with him a little bit. When we didn’t get Jaso, it put us in a tough spot."
Donaldson made the most of his opportunity, hitting a towering drive down the left-field line that he stood and watched, hoping it would stay fair. It did as he ended up with his second career walk-off homer, having also hit one April 12, 2013, against the Tigers.
"They had about three balls tonight that went down that line and they kind of kept hooking foul," Donaldson said. "I saw where mine started. I was just praying that it would stay fair."
It did and Nathan (2-1) blew his fourth save in 16 chances.
"It was a tough spot to bring Joe into, with the tying run on second base," manager Brad Ausmus said. "He has no margin for error. It was tough spot."
Kazmir (6-2) allowed six hits and no walks with eight strikeouts, giving up only a solo homer to Torii Hunter in the fourth inning in his second career complete game.
"As a fan that was a fun game to watch right there. It was," Kazmir said. "Throughout the whole game Anibal and I were just battling it out, out for out. We ended up getting a couple of baserunners up in the ninth and Donaldson comes up. You just kind of had that feeling when he came up to be honest with you. He saw that first pitch and didn’t miss it. It was awesome."
Sanchez faced the minimum through three innings with center fielder Rajai Davis making a diving catch in the gap to rob Yoenis Cespedes of extra bases in the second inning and the Tigers turning a well-executed 3-6-1 inning-ending double play after Josh Reddick walked in the third for Oakland’s first baserunner.
The A’s got their first hit the following inning when Donaldson hit a clean single to center. Sanchez was helped again by his defense after that with first baseman Miguel Cabrera snaring a liner by Brandon Moss to end the inning and preserve the 1-0 lead.
The Tigers had gone ahead in the top half of the inning when Hunter hit a drive over the fence in right-center for his eighth homer of the season. Hunter hit a game-tying solo shot in Detroit’s 6-5 win Tuesday night.
Kazmir’s only other complete game came in a 3-0 win over Boston on July 3, 2006. … Donaldson has reached base safely in 46 of his past 47 games. … Davis left in the seventh inning with a bruised left shoulder and is day to day. … Jesse Chavez (4-1) will start the series finale on Thursday for Oakland against Rick Porcello (7-1).