OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Anibal Sanchez did everything but finish the game.
When Joe Nathan was unable to close out Sanchez’s stellar start, the slumping Detroit Tigers were dealt yet another loss.
Josh Donaldson hit a game-ending three-run homer off Nathan with one out in the ninth and Scott Kazmir pitched his first complete game in nearly eight years to help the Oakland Athletics rally for a 3-1 victory over Detroit on Wednesday night.
“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 a tough spot.”
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.
“I’m OK with the decision they made to take me out. My pitch count was up,” Sanchez said.
“At that point they wanted to bring a fresh pitcher into the game — to close the game.”
Instead, John Jaso greeted Nathan with a single off third baseman Nick Castellanos’ glove to set the stage for Donaldson.
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.
“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.”
It did and Nathan (2-1) blew his fourth save in 16 chances.
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, who won the 2013 ERA title in the American League, missed around three weeks with a finger injury on his throwing hand but is finding his groove now. He followed up a strong seven-inning outing against Texas last week with an even better start against the first-place A’s.
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.
Each team won a replay challenge with Ausmus correctly arguing that J.D. Martinez beat the throw to first on a potential inning-ending double play in the second inning and Melvin arguing that Miguel Cabrera was thrown out at second by Cespedes in left field trying for a double.
NOTES: Kazmir’s only other complete game came in a 3-0 win over Boston on July 3, 2006. ... Davis left in the seventh inning with a bruised left shoulder. ... Jesse Chavez (4-1) will start the series finale on Thursday for Oakland against Rick Porcello (7-1).