OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Oakland Athletics hardly resembled the same team that pounded the Detroit Tigers the two previous days.
With only four regulars in the lineup, how could they? Especially with Tigers ace Justin Verlander making things even more difficult.
Verlander struck out eight to win his fourth straight decision despite leaving after seven innings with a bleeding callus on this thumb, and the Tigers beat the ailing A's 3-1 on Sunday to salvage a series split.
"He looked good. He mixed it up. He's an ace for a reason," said Daric Barton, one of Oakland's starters who is healthy. "He pitched a great game today. He throws 99 for one thing and pitches well to location. You think one thing and get something else. Sometimes you even get the pitch you're looking for and still can't do anything with it."
Verlander doesn't expect the tiny blister near the knuckle of his thumb to affect him, other than being an annoyance. He might try using more moisturizer between starts to keep the area from drying out.
Miguel Cabrera hit a pair of RBI singles and Austin Jackson drew a bases-loaded walk in the sixth to put Detroit ahead, helping Verlander (4-1) win his 13th straight road decision dating to July 10.
"I really don't know what happened. It's kind of been happening for me all season long and I've been trying to deal with it and figure it out," Verlander said. "Obviously I want to go back, but the risk-reward, seventh inning ... there's no point in going out there and risking it and maybe something serious happens. If I could, I would. Maybe if it's the World Series I'd have gone back out there, who cares."
Verlander easily worked through Oakland's order for the first time, tossing three perfect innings on 42 pitches.
Josh Reddick hit a sharp single to center with two outs in the fourth for the first baserunner against Verlander, who then threw wildly trying for a pickoff and wound up with a two-base error and Reddick on third. But Jonny Gomes struck out swinging as Verlander escaped unscathed.
Seth Smith hit a tying solo homer to start the fifth and A's starter Jarrod Parker (1-1) retired the first two batters of the sixth, getting a huge lift from fill-in second baseman Eric Sogard's leaping, lunging stop of a high liner by Alex Avila. But Brennan Boesch doubled and Jhonny Peralta and Ryan Raburn drew back-to-back walks to chase Parker and load the bases.
Grant Balfour, demoted from his closer role in recent days, then walked Jackson to force home the go-ahead run.
Sogard was called out on a close play in the bottom half, when third baseman Cabrera fielded his bunt and made a high throw to first that replays showed Sogard beat.
Manager Bob Melvin ran out to argue with first-base umpire Mike Everitt.
Verlander didn't walk a batter until there were two outs in the seventh — around the time he noticed his thumb was bleeding — then retired Josh Donaldson on a fly ball to center to finish his 114-pitch day against the short-handed Oakland order.
The hard-throwing right-hander pitched eight scoreless innings against the A's last Sept. 18 in a 3-0 Tigers win in the Oakland Coliseum. During his road winning streak, Verlander owns a 2.71 ERA with 104 strikeouts.
He looked dominant early, pitching on the same mound two years after Oakland's Dallas Braden tossed an improbable perfect game here on Mother's Day against Tampa Bay.
Parker suffered his first major league loss, allowing two runs in 5 2-3 innings.
"Going up against Verlander he had to be good and put up zeroes," Melvin said. "That's just what he did for the most part. I thought he ran out of gas there at the end."
Detroit took the series opener Thursday night 10-6 but had dropped the next two before coming through in the finale.
The A's were without their hottest hitter, Brandon Inge, because of groin tightness. Catcher Kurt Suzuki was out nursing a tender left thumb. A day after Cuban slugger Yoenis Cespedes went on the disabled list with a hand injury, Kila Ka'aihue also couldn't play for the second straight day because of a strained lower right hamstring and calf muscle. Second baseman Jemile Weeks rested a day after leaving in the fourth inning with a sprained left ankle.
Prince Fielder went 0 for 5 to finish a 0-for-18 series and is mired in a 0-for-22 funk since a home run Tuesday in Seattle. He is 4 for 28 (.143) on this road trip for the Tigers, who are playing a stretch with 19 of 24 games away from the Motor City.
Manager Jim Leyland isn't panicking about his big-money slugger, signed to a $214 million, nine-year contract in January.
"We've got guys who've got track records that will hit, it's just a matter of when," Leyland said, noting some advice he got from Ted Williams: "Don't worry about hitting the ball on the ground and don't worry about hitting the ball in the air, just worry about hitting it hard."
Notes: A's pitchers are beginning their hitting preparation ahead of next weekend's interleague Bay Bridge Series with the San Francisco Giants. ... In his last 38 May starts, Verlander is 23-8 with a 2.71 ERA and 222 strikeouts. ... Cabrera had an RBI single in the fifth and another for an insurance run in the ninth. He is batting .348 (48 for 138) with 10 doubles, 11 home runs and 36 RBIs in 38 career games vs. Oakland.