A barrage of Tigers homers Saturday proved to be just enough to bring a nine-game winning streak to an end for the A's, and the two teams enter their Sunday finale with the three-game series hanging in the balance.
The two American League Division Series foes of a year ago provided another entertaining contest Saturday with the A's continuing to rally late, and the finale promises more of the same in a matchup of talented right-handers, one hoping to get on track and one hoping to stay on course.
Jarrod Parker, one of the A's sensations as a rookie in 2012, has had a couple of tough starts to start the season. Anibal Sanchez has been simply superb in his first two outings, allowing two earned runs in 12 innings of work.
Coming in behind Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, Sanchez provides a third imposing starter in a row for the A's to face.
"You can't go in thinking you don't have a chance," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "Even when a pitcher is on, you usually get one pitch in an at-bat to hit. You just can't miss it."
While Sanchez has been strong his first two starts, Parker is looking for his first quality start after going five innings in his 2013 debut and lasting just 3 1/3 frames against the Angels on April 9. Parker lost his only outing in the regular season against the Tigers last year, and he was the losing pitcher in two ALDS games in October.
Parker will be faced with trying to slow down one of the best hitters in the Majors out of the gate, Prince Fielder. After going 2-for-3 with his fourth homer Saturday, Fielder is batting .436 and has an eight-game hitting streak. He is 15-for-27 (.556) with six runs, three doubles, four homers and 17 RBIs during the streak.
"He's seeing the ball really good at the plate," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "You can see in how he's laying off bad pitches. He's swinging the bat well. This guy's not just a power hitter. This guy's a hitter."
Fielder is 0-for-9 with a pair of strikeouts against Parker heading into Sunday's game.
Tigers: Avila OK but gets a rest
Alex Avila caught all 12 innings of Friday night's 4-3 loss and got whacked on the helmet by a backswing, but he came in Saturday morning hoping to play. Not happening, said Leyland.
"Alex actually wanted to play today, and to me that's totally stupid," Leyland said. "You played 12 innings, you got banged on the head. You got your leg banged up. That doesn't make any sense at all to me."
Brayan Pena made the start behind the plate, going 2-for-3 with a double.
• Phil Coke was back in action Saturday after being unable to play Friday with a stomach illness that had him feeling dizzy. Coke entered Saturday's game in the seventh, worked out of a jam for the final out and then recorded the first out of the eighth.
A's: Cespedes to DL, Crisp out
Yoenis Cespedes landed on the disabled list Saturday, one day after an awkward slide caused a muscle strain in his left hand. Coco Crisp was also out of the starting lineup Saturday with a groin strain.
And any questions about the A's five-man outfield were answered with Chris Young moving into center field and Seth Smith taking over in left -- Young's presence making up for both Cespedes' power and Crisp's defense.
"You don't get that variable often," Melvin said. "That's a credit to [general manager] Billy Beane and the scouting staff to know we have guys who are aggressive and are prone to injury. We're well-covered with Cespedes going out, not that we want him out for any length of time."
• Another twist to Saturday's lineup was John Jaso hitting in the leadoff spot. Jaso had filled that spot before, collecting his 200th at-bat in that role Saturday, but he had never done it with the A's.
"He can work the count, he's an on-base guy and he's not foreign to the spot," Melvin said.
• After Sunday's game, the A's will welcome the Astros to the O.co Coliseum for the first time as AL West foes, playing three games starting Monday. The A's swept three games from the Astros in Houston the first weekend of the season.
• The Tigers will continue their three-city West Coast swing with a three-game series in Seattle that begins Tuesday. That will be followed by a weekend series at Angel Stadium.
• The Tigers won the 2012 season series vs. the A's, 4-3, one of only two American League teams Oakland had a losing record against last year. (The other: Kansas City, 4-5.)
• The Tigers and A's will meet again in Detroit for four games Aug. 26-29.
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.