Published May 13, 2012
OAKLAND, Calif. – Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera and the rest of the Detroit Tigers are swinging and missing far too often lately.
And for the first time all season, a lack of hitting has handed the Tigers a losing record.
Fielder and Cabrera combined to go 0 for 8 with four strikeouts, and Detroit had only five hits in a 3-1 loss to the Oakland Athletics on Saturday night.
"You can look better swinging the bats and still not get any hits. I've seen signs but not many," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "We're just not looking good swinging the bats. We're not putting anything together."
The opposition has helped, either.
Brandon McCarthy matched a career high with 10 strikeouts for Oakland after missing his last start with a sore right shoulder. The A's opening-day starter scattered four hits in seven innings to quiet fears of another serious injury setback. McCarthy (3-3) had struck out 10 batters only twice before.
Jonny Gomes, Cliff Pennington and Daric Barton each drove in a run for Oakland.
Doug Fister's scoreless streak ended at 11 innings when Gomes grounded a single to left field in the first. Fister (0-1) struck out eight in six innings, allowing five hits and one run.
Detroit (16-17) has dropped four of six to start its nine-game road trip.
"I struggled through the first couple of innings. I couldn't find my release point," Fister said. "It was more about timing. It finally clicked. I felt like I had it. I knew I still had to make pitches, but I felt in a good rhythm. I'm thankful he let me go out for the sixth inning."
The only noise Detroit made came too late — and too little.
Delmon Young doubled off Brian Fuentes with one out in the ninth and scored on Alex Avila's fly out. Fuentes, who earned his closer role back for now, recorded his second save in three chances this season.
Relief is exactly what Oakland needed after a day filled with injuries.
The A's placed powerful slugger Yoenis Cespedes on the 15-day disabled list with a strained muscle in his left hand. First baseman Kila Ka'aihue also was a late scratch from the lineup after he strained a hamstring sliding into second Friday night, and second baseman Jemile Weeks sprained his left ankle running out a single in the second.
Pennington replaced Weeks in the fourth. He played shortstop and Eric Sogard moved to second. Ka'aihue and Weeks are day to day and could be back in the lineup Sunday.
Pennington pulled a triple to right off reliever Phil Coke in the seventh that scored Collin Cowgill from first. Barton followed with a single to give Oakland a 3-0 lead.
The player with the most injury questions entering the weekend ended up answering every one of them.
McCarthy controlled his pitches with ease and seemed to only grow stronger in the later innings. He struck out the heart of Detroit's lineup swinging in the sixth — including Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Young — and never put himself in a jam.
The only time the Tigers even threatened to score came in the fifth, when first baseman Barton let a popped bunt by Danny Worth drop — perhaps thinking he had a chance for a double play — only to watch the ball spin backward and foul. After Worth sacrificed two runners over, McCarthy rallied by striking out Don Kelly and inducing a groundout from Andy Dirks.
"We had a shot with runners on second and third and one out. He got a strikeout in that situation and that's exactly what he was looking for," Leyland said. "And that's huge. It's part of the game. We're hoping to get a ground ball to second or short and score a run there. I thought we caught a break too when the runners advanced even after we can't bunt them over. We just didn't take advantage of it."
Notes: Oakland RHP Brett Anderson is scheduled to throw about 40 pitches in a bullpen session Monday in another step forward from elbow-ligament replacement surgery last July. ... CF Austin Jackson entered in the eighth, striking out against Cook. ... The Tigers send reigning AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander (3-1, 2.63 ERA) to the mound opposite Jarrod Parker (1-0, 1.80 ERA) in Sunday's series finale.
Follow Antonio Gonzalez at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP