OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) – Max Scherzer was in Detroit’s clubhouse and had a good view of Ramon Santiago’s near home run in the 12th inning.
The Tigers’ right-hander also was watching the television when Oakland’s Josh Donaldson hit an opposite-field homer in the bottom of the inning to hand Detroit a 4-3 loss on the first stop on its nine-game road trip.
“It (was) just a finger-length away, that much, from being a home run,” Scherzer said of Santiago’s two-out triple that hit just inches below the home run line above the scoreboards in left field.
“That’s just how this game goes sometimes. He runs into a fastball like that, it’s a home run (but) it hits off the boards and it’s a triple and they were able to get out of the inning. Baseball’s a funny game.”
Donaldson’s drive to right off Brayan Villarreal (0-2) with one out in the 12th was his first career game-ending hit.
And in typical 2012 fashion for the reigning AL West champions, Josh Reddick found Donaldson with a pair of celebratory whipped cream pies — a scene reminiscent of the major league-best 14 walk-off wins the A’s had last year.
It came only moments after Santiago was stranded on third base after his two-out triple off Jerry Blevins. Chris Resop (1-0) relieved Blevins and retired Austin Jackson on a fly to center.
The A’s improved to an AL-best 9-2, just the third time in Oakland history the club has opened at least 9-2, also done in 1981 (11-0) and 1990 (9-2).
Only the Atlanta Braves at 9-1 have a better record than Oakland.
Fielder hit a three-run shot and Scherzer struck out 11, but the Tigers didn’t get enough from the bottom of their batting order. The last five hitters went a combined 2 for 25.
“We’ve got no complaints about that,” Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. “They hit the ball over the fence. Wasn’t like we walked somebody or threw the ball around or something. The guy hit it over the fence.”
Reddick, Oakland’s right fielder, received his Gold Glove before the game, and showed it off with a leaping catch of Victor Martinez’s deep fly to start the ninth.
Coco Crisp hit a tying, broken-bat single in the seventh but was replaced in the field in the top of the 10th after straining his left groin.
Fielder connected for his third home run with a drive to center in the third. He singled in the first and led off the sixth with a double, then singled again in the 11th. Fielder had two four-hit games last season.
Oakland hasn’t lost since dropping its first two games of the year at home to Seattle.
The A’s, coming off a 6-0 road trip through Houston and Anaheim, accomplished the 14th winning streak of nine games or more in Oakland history. They also have the second-longest winning streak in Oakland history during the month of April.
Tigers catcher Alex Avila was hit in the helmet on a backswing when Brandon Moss struck out in the eighth, but stayed in the game after being examined. Moss was called for interference on the play and Yoenis Cespedes had to return to first.
Cespedes was then picked off for the third out, and landed hard on his left hand after a tumbling slide on the play. He was removed in the 11th, and X-rays were negative.
Arriving in California was a relief for the Tigers, who were coming off an 11-1 victory at home over the Blue Jays in which the first-pitch temperature was 35 degrees and the wind chill took it down to 26. Friday’s temperature: 59 degrees.
“That’s the proudest I’ve been of a team on any particular day I’ve ever managed,” Leyland said before the game. “Weather conditions were as bad as I’ve ever played in, managed in, or right up there with the all-time worst.”
On Saturday afternoon, Tigers ace Justin Verlander faces lefty Brett Anderson. Verlander won the deciding Game 5 in Oakland last fall and the Tigers went on to sweep the Yankees in the AL championship series before getting swept by San Francisco in the World Series.
Reddick hit an RBI single in the sixth to pull his team to 3-2. Scherzer struck out the next three batters on 11 pitches.
“I was done,” said Scherzer, who was replaced by reliever Drew Smyly to start the seventh. “You’ve got to be smart, especially in the early part of the season when you know you can hurt yourself a little bit. You can’t try to be a hero in any type of situation.”
Bartolo Colon struck out five and didn’t walk a batter in seven innings while making his first home start since being suspended 50 games last Aug. 22 for a positive testosterone test.
Colon is 0-7 over his last 13 appearances and 12 starts against Detroit and hasn’t beaten the Tigers since April 13, 2003.
Scherzer, who had a career-high 16 wins last year and received a no-decision in Game 4 of the AL division series, struck out the side in the sixth, his final inning. He allowed two runs and five hits with one walk.
The Tigers committed their first error of the season in the third when Scherzer threw wildly past Miguel Cabrera at third trying to catch Eric Sogard stealing. Sogard scored on the play.
Crisp extended his hitting streak to nine games with a first-inning bunt single, then stole his third and fourth bases of the year.
NOTES: Former Tigers closer Jose Valverde, who agreed to a minor league deal with Detroit last week, pitched one scoreless inning at extended spring training in Lakeland, Fla., against the Braves. He struck out one and walked one. … The Tigers were one of only two AL clubs the A’s had losing records against last year, dropping the season series 4-3. Oakland lost the series with Kansas City 5-4. … Tigers RF Torii Hunter had most of the night off before flying out in the eighth as a pinch-hitter and then staying in the game.
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