Zito dominates, but bullpen blows it in A's loss to Tigers

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Brandon Inge kept hacking away, trying to show fill-in closer Justin Duchscherer he would not back down or be an easy out.

Inge walked after a 15-pitch plate appearance and then Curtis Granderson drew a free pass with the bases loaded to bring home the go-ahead run in the ninth inning as the Detroit Tigers rallied to beat the Oakland Athletics 4-3 on Thursday.

Inge was determined to wear down Duchscherer (1-1), who pitched in place of Huston Street because the A's regular closer has a mild strain of a muscle in his chest.

"I was battling absolutely as hard as I could," Inge said. "A pitcher would rather have a rocket hit off him than have someone stand up there and keep fouling off pitches. That's frustrating for a pitcher. He thinks this is the pitch and you foul it off. I know as a catcher I got frustrated. ... I think it was a great opportunity for a hit, a walk, anything. Once I was three, four minutes into the at-bat, I'm thinking, 'I have to get on base some way.'"

Tigers skipper Jim Leyland joked that Inge stood in there so long he had enough time to smoke more than one cigarette.

"One-and-a-half Marlboros," Leyland said. "That was a tremendous at-bat. He showed great discipline up there. When people see that, they see the way it can be done."

A's manager Ken Macha opted to stick with Duchscherer rather than immediately turn to reliever Kirk Saarloos, who had already been warming up for several minutes.

"I felt like I was in control," Duchscherer said. "I made some pitches and he kept getting a little piece of them. I tried to battle and they just beat me today."

Fernando Rodney (1-0) pitched two innings, working out of a bases-loaded jam in the ninth to extend his scoreless streak at the season's start to 7 2/3 innings. He struck out pinch-hitter Adam Melhuse to end it.

Magglio Ordonez led off the ninth with a single, pinch-hitter Alexis Gomez doubled and Chris Shelton singled to make it 3-2 with no outs before Carlos Guillen's tying single.

Barry Zito showed the dominant form he's had in past seasons with seven strong innings but had nothing to show for it at the end after Duchscherer lost the lead in the ninth.

Mark Kotsay tripled, while Bobby Crosby, Eric Chavez and Milton Bradley all drove in runs to stake Zito to a 3-1 lead in the first inning.

Zito, who appears to be finding his groove again, allowed two first-inning hits, including an RBI double to Ordonez. He didn't allow another until Granderson's single to start the sixth.

Inge's effort earned him some serious points with his teammates. Duchscherer hadn't allowed a run in 14 innings dating to last season.

"Games like this are very good for us and will be a key for us," Ivan Rodriguez said. "That was the game right there: Brandon Inge."

Nick Swisher had his career-best 10-game hitting streak snapped after an 0-for-2 day that featured two walks, but Oakland's sputtering offense couldn't do enough to get the A's (7-9) back to the .500 mark.

The A's batted only 10-for-61 (.164) in the first two games of the series -- the five hits in each contest matching the club's season low. Oakland managed six hits Thursday.

Kotsay tripled in the first and scored on Crosby's single, and Chavez followed with his double.

Zito allowed one run on three hits, walked four, struck out three and plunked two batters in a 100-pitch performance after losing to Texas last Friday.

Zito, the 2002 AL Cy Young Award winner, has traditionally had a hard time in the season's first month. He has his highest ERA in April and it's the only month in which he doesn't have a winning record.

Shelton went 1-for-3 with a walk and a strikeout and didn't hit a home run during the series, remaining at nine homers for the season.

Jeremy Bonderman was saved from losing his third straight start. He didn't give up a run after the first inning, allowing three runs and five hits.Game notes
After the game, the Tigers optioned right-hander Chris Spurling to

Triple-A Toledo and activated closer Todd Jones, who had been on the 15-day disabled list with a pulled left hamstring. ... Zito reached 100 pitches for the third straight start. ... After committing four errors in the first two games of the series, Guillen worked a clean game at shortstop. ... The A's dropped to 1-5 against the AL Central. ... Struggling Dan Johnson -- 1-for-32 (.031) with one RBI to start the season coming into Thursday's game -- returned to the A's lineup at first after getting several days to work on his swing. He still had problems, going hitless in three at-bats. ... Johnson and Crosby teamed up for inning-ending double plays in the fourth and fifth. ... Frank Thomas got his first career hit off Bonderman with a fourth-inning single after going 0-for-7.