Considering the way the Oakland Athletics have underperformed against sub-.500 teams this year and struggled on the road, it would have been reasonable to expect them to have problems with the Detroit Tigers.
Instead, the A’s got a grand slam from Jurickson Profar as part of a six-run third inning, saw Chris Bassitt throw eight shutout innings in front of his friends and family and pounded five homers for the second time this week, racing to a 17-3 win in the series opener.
While the A’s were swept for the season by the lowly Toronto Blue Jays after sweeping last year’s series, they ensured a similar fate wouldn’t manifest itself against another team that they had swept last season, picking up their 13th straight had-to-head win against Detroit and their eighth in a row at Comerica Park.
Profar’s grand slam ensured a short outing for Spencer Turnbull, who entered the day with a 2.42 ERA and only allowed one earned run, but was punished by an error in the third. With one out and men on first and second, Matt Olson hit a grounder to first baseman Niko Goodrum, who threw to second to try to get the force out. His throw carried shortstop Ronny Rodriguez off the bag, loading the bases.
Khris Davis struck out for the second out of the inning, but a wild pitch made it 2-0 and a Stephen Piscotty walk reloaded the bases. Profar swung at the first offering from Turnbull and connected on a breaking ball that sailed into the front row in right field, breaking the game open.
The hit parade continued for Oakland (20-25) after Turnbull completed four innings, with three runs coming in the sixth inning off Blaine Hardy on a two-run homer by Josh Phegley and an Olson solo shot. Phegley struck again with an RBI double off Reed Garrett in the seventh and Marcus Semien followed with a three-run homer to make it 13-0. Robbie Grossman hit a two-run double off Victor Alcantara in the eighth, part of a 2-for-4 day for the left fielder, who also tripled to start the top of the third and scored on a Phegley RBI single.
Phegley drove in four on what was a massive day for the bottom of the order, as the bottom four hitters combined to drive in 10 runs on nine hits. Every A’s starter had at least one hit and every player who appeared in the game for Oakland scored at least one run except for Davis. Mark Canha capped things off with the team’s fifth homer of the day, a two-run shot off position player Brandon Dixon, who pitched the ninth to save the bullpen for Detroit (18-24).
Though the A’s scored in five different innings, pushing across at least two runs each time, the rally in the third would have been more than enough for Bassitt, who tied his career high in innings in front of friends and family, many of whom made the trip of just over an hour from the Toledo suburb of Genoa, Ohio. He struck out seven, walked only two and allowed just four hits, only coming in danger of giving up a run in the second inning when Ronny Rodriguez, Detroit’s hottest hitter, tripled with one out. Josh Harrison then fouled with a grounder to third, and with Rodriguez running on contact, Matt Chapman threw home to get the out at the plate.
The only damper on the afternoon for the visitors came in the ninth as Aaron Brooks, moved from fifth starter to long reliever, allowed a three-run homer to Dawel Lugo with two outs, preventing the A’s from earning the record of largest shutout win by a visiting team in Comerica Park history. While Oakland did tie most runs in a single game this the young season, Lugo’s late homer broke the shutout and created further uncertainty surrounding Brooks, who throws a strong changeup but saw his ERA rise to 5.94. As the right-hander is out of options, the A’s have been hesitant to designate him for assignment, but recent performances cost him a spot in the rotation and further struggles could see him placed on waivers.