Tigers barely hold on, salvage 4-game split

OAKLAND, CALIF. (DETROIT FREE PRESS) - Rick Porcello got out of trouble all afternoon at O.co Coliseum to hold the Oakland Athletics to two runs on five hits. He survived a two-run homer and six walks as the Detroit Tigers beat Oakland 5-4 on Thursday.

Joe Nathan struggled again, giving up two runs in the ninth inning, but got the save.

"I was all over the place and fortunate," said Porcello, who tweaked his delivery to up the command and snap on his breaking balls. "At the same time I was proud of the way I battled."

Though the Tigers ended the four-game series against the A's with a split, the pitching was better than it had been, at least after they lost Monday afternoon 10-0. Only Anibal Sanchez was dominant, but Max Scherzer and Porcello gave the Tigers enough to win, even if they didn't have their sharpest stuff.

"We needed this win," Porcello said, "we've had a stressful few weeks. This one actually feels pretty good."

The Tigers earned offensive contributions from the usual suspects: Victor Martinez, Ian Kinsler and Miguel Cabrera, and from a couple of unexpected places, too.

Don Kelly, inserted in the No. 2 spot for Torii Hunter, finished with two hits.

"The guy brings a lot to the table," Ausmus said of Kelly.

Nick Castellanos, meanwhile, added two more hits. It was solid bounce-back game for Castellanos, who misplayed a line drive in the ninth Wednesday night that contributed to a 3-1 walk-off loss.

Castellanos was pretty dejected in the clubhouse afterward. The mistake, however, overshadowed a recent string of walks, which suggest his eye may be improving. He singled twice Wednesday and hit the ball hard to the opposite field - it was a line-drive out.

At times, he's looked overwhelmed this season, but the last several days may help him. They may help the Tigers, too. At some point, someone in the bottom half of the lineup is going to have to produce.

The Tigers didn't mash the ball against the A's in the series finale, but they still produced - Martinez doubled in two runs in the seventh to give the bullpen the three-run cushion.

It might have been worse had Porcello not escaped a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the second inning. After giving up a single and two walks, Porcello got Eric Sogard to hit a come-backer on a nasty sinker.

"One of the better ones I've thrown," he said.

Porcello picked one-hopper cleanly and fired home for the force out. Alex Avila then whipped it to first for the double play. Porcello then got Coco Crisp to ground out and end the threat.

J.D. Martinez, who made a couple of nifty plays in leftfield, made no more important one than when he picked a sinking liner off his shoelaces in the bottom of the fifth with two runners on.

"The catch that J.D. made, for me, that was the game," said Porcello. "For him to focus for the long innings that I was out there (was impressive)."

Ausmus said they'd gotten reports that Martinez was an adequate outfielder, but he played more solidly than that in Oakland.

The A's loaded the bases again in the sixth, again with the help of two walks. Ian Krol came in with two outs and got Josh Reddick to pop up.

The bullpen held on from there, though Nathan allowed two runs in the ninth. Porcello hadn't give up more than two walks in an outing this season. He allowed six Thursday.

He did, however, do a better job of keeping his sinker low than during his last outing.

"I felt like I was missing but I knew what I had to do," he said.

Detroit heads to Seattle for three games. They are 30-20.


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