Tigers strand nine runners in loss to A's

The Detroit Tigers put runners on base all game. They just seemed to forget what to do when they got there.

That, manager Jim Leyland says, is more frustrating than anything else.

"We did a poor job of recognizing situational hitting opportunities," said Leyland following Detroit's 6-2 loss to the Oakland Athletics on Saturday. "I don't mind if we don't execute but it looked to me like we didn't even recognize the situations. It was kind of shocking to me."

The Tigers managed just six hits against five Oakland pitchers and stranded nine base runners, four in scoring position. That, coupled with an off night by ace Justin Verlander, was enough to end Detroit's four-game winning streak.

Verlander (1-2) allowed eight hits and four runs — three earned — in six innings, finishing with six strikeouts. He was also part of a bizarre play in the fifth inning when it looked like he intentionally threw a pitch at Oakland's David DeJesus.

The lanky right-hander walked Daric Barton, then was on the mound when he suddenly jumped off the rubber and fired toward the plate. The ball hit DeJesus in the foot and he was initially awarded first base while Barton moved to second.

Detroit manager Jim Leyland came out to question the call, and after the four umpires conferred, the play was ruled a balk. DeJesus was sent back to the box and Barton remained at second.

Verlander explained that he was trying to make a pickoff throw to first base but his body was caught out of position, so he thought if he just threw home he could avoid a balk.

"I disengaged from the mound and I felt there was no way I was throwing to first base with all that open space," Verlander said. "I just did what my instincts told me."

Oakland lefty Dallas Braden allowed an unearned run in five innings before leaving with stiffness in his pitching shoulder. DeJesus and Hideki Matsui added two hits apiece as the A's held off the Tigers for their second home win this season.

The A's, who committed their major league-leading 17th error, dropped the first two games on this homestand and were 1-4 at the Coliseum before ending Detroit's four-game winning streak.

Victor Martinez doubled and singled for the Tigers.

Braden, who pitched a perfect game on Mother's Day in 2010, wasn't as crisp as he has been this season and had to pitch out of jams in the second and fourth.

Coming off six sharp innings against the Chicago White Sox on Monday, Braden (1-1) struck out five and walked two. He left when his shoulder tightened up after only 67 pitches.

The A's relievers had come under scrutiny after failing to support strong outings by starters Gio Gonzalez and Brandon McCarthy in the first two games of this four-game series. This time, the bullpen didn't give in.

Brad Ziegler, Craig Breslow, Grant Balfour and Brian Fuentes pitched one inning apiece to complete the six-hitter.

Oakland needed the strong outing to help overcome a throwing error by first baseman Barton that gave the Tigers a 1-0 lead.

Miguel Cabrera led off the second with a walk and moved to third on Martinez's double. Braden struck out Jhonny Peralta, then got Brennan Boesch to hit a grounder to first. Barton fielded the ball cleanly but bypassed the easy out at first and instead threw wildly toward home, allowing Cabrera to score.

It was the A's eighth error in their past five games.

The Tigers couldn't get anything off the A's relievers until the ninth. Peralta singled and Boesch followed with a walk. Fuentes relieved Balfour and later gave up a walk to load the bases but pitched out of the jam to preserve the win.

"It got a little hairy there at the end," Oakland manager Bob Geren said. "We've had a ton of close games. With Justin Verlander on the mound, that's a great win, period."

Designated hitter Magglio Ordonez went 1 for 4 in his return to Detroit's lineup. Ordonez had been out since Monday with a tight Achilles' in his right foot.

NOTES: The Tigers have doubled in all 15 games this year, the franchise's longest streak to start a season since at least 1919. ... Verlander needs eight strikeouts to reach 1,000 for his career. ... Leyland said he plans to give 3B Brandon Inge the day off Sunday. ... The seven runs scored by Detroit in the 10th inning Friday were the most the Tigers have scored in extra innings since 1991.